By the very nature of its short calendar, the Alpine Esports Series 2023 edition was – much like its previous years – eventually going to fall into a race of few horses. Heading into the finale located at Circuit Ricardo Tormo within Assetto Corsa Competizione, Dennis Schöniger held a very assailable eight-point lead over Tino van der Velde.
Reigning champion, James Baldwin, could be found a further twelve points back; lurking in the shadows alongside Dominik Blajer and Vojtech Fiala. Realistically speaking, it was between the top two, who would be given a far easier task of netting points thanks in part to the reduced grid numbers for this particular evening.
A minor miracle was needed for Baldwin from here on out. He at least bagged himself pole position for the Sprint, though Schöniger would be breathing down his neck, joining him on the front row. This was bad news for van der Velde who could only manage fifth.
Between the Dutchman and his targets lay Fiala and a particularly strong Lukas Mateja who was yet to stand on the podium in 2023.
Van der Velde played audience off the start to Mateja and Fiala exchanging paint through Aspar for the first time. Any prayers for spins went unanswered although the Czechs did end up switching places by Doohan.
Given the lack of clear-cut overtaking options, the midfield did its darndest to put on a show. Kamil Pawlowski was caught in the thick of it, getting punchy with Isaac Gillissen as he made his way up into the points. The Pole would ultimately meet face-to-face with the inside wall of Turn 13 courtesy of tangling with Charlie Crossland.
In the dying embers of a rather more cordial event at the front, van der Velde finally made some headway. Mateja was demoted to fifth at Nico Terol but by the chequered flag had managed to wrestle back fourth. For Tinko, it was an average result at a time when he needed to be beating the man now three positions up the road.
Now all Schöniger had to do was finish ahead of van der Velde and the championship would be his.
Alpine Esports 2023, Round 3, Sprint Race results
- James Baldwin – 10 Laps
- Dennis Schöniger – +0.449
- Vojtech Fiala – +0.852
- Lukas Mateja – +4.392
- Tinko van der Velde – +4.868
- Luke Whitehead – +5.467
- Geert Fischer – +5.594
- Dominik Blajer – +7.227
- Isaac Gillissen – +12.768
- Mariusz Tworzydło – +14.008
Twelve points was now the gap, the writing could not have been more on the wall. Yet, somehow, it found a way as Schöniger went one better than the Sprint and claimed pole position.
Baldwin would have to make do from the second row as an outrageous lap from Marko Pejic lined him up for a shot at victory. Van der Velde meanwhile had also seen a tail-off in qualifying form. Seventh was where he would start behind Dominik Blajer, Mateja and Fiala. No pressure then.
Pejic threw the kitchen sink at Schöniger around the opening corners. Had it not been for some equally stubborn defence, it could just have led to the first domino falling in van der Velde’s favour. Alas, the German held on.
Further back Mateja and Fiala continued their rivalry with yet another early switch of positions. This time it was Mateja one step closer to a podium. Van der Velde went the other way, Geert Fischer sprinkling salt into a widening wound, but his luck was about to turn. Dominik Blajer and the aforementioned Fischer stumbled over each other at Turn 11. The Dutchman had a clear route to sixth which was snapped up.
Mateja was the next to find grief in a rapidly evolving first lap. It was a mistake of his own doing which allowed Fiala back into fourth though worse was to come; a five-second time penalty for failing to respect track limits.
Baldwin was on the move upon the completion of five minutes. A teammate at Mercedes-AMG, Pejic was happy to let the Brit through despite there being no chance of a comeback in the standings. Not that Schöniger cared either way. His lead gap was extending past one and a half seconds by this stage.
Van der Velde would gain two more places courtesy of Mateja hitting Fiala off the road, though that would be all the story wrote for the 2023 Alpine Esports Series.
Schöniger had travelled to Baldwin’s realm and proven to be a revolution of talent. There was to be one final act of class from the outgoing champion, however – allowing Pejic to retake second.
Schöniger took the title in triumphant fashion and is now lined up for a real-world Alpine GT4 test session.
Alpine Esports 2023, Round 3, Feature Race results
- Dennis Schöniger – 16 Laps
- Marko Pejic +4.443
- James Baldwin +4.830
- Tinko van der Velde +8.124
- Vojtech Fiala +8.641
- Maciej Malinowski +12.137
- Luke Whitehead +12.293
- Lukas Mateja +12.293
- Isaac Gillissen +13.074
- Jaroslav Honzik +16.057
Alpine Esports 2023 championship standings
- Dennis Schöniger – 91pts
- Tinko van der Velde – 66pts
- James Baldwin – 63pts
- Vojtech Fiala – 51pts
- Dominik Blajer – 39pts
- Marko Pejic – 26pts
- Luke Whitehead – 24pts
- Lukas Mateja – 15pts
- Maciej Malinowski – 14pts
- Mateusz Tyskiewicz – 11pts