Back for its second season, the Alpine Esports Series (AES) Championship Stage was ready to launch on Thursday (28th April) evening.
Amongst the prizes for this season lays the pick of the bunch, an Alpine A110 GT4 driving experience. Also up for grabs are some very eyecatching sim racing rig upgrades and a $100,000 Alpine Fan Token prize pool.
Based on Assetto Corsa Competizione, reigning champion Jaroslav ‘Jardier’ Honzik is not back to defend his title. Of the thirty drivers looking to relieve the Czech streamer of his crown, fellow content creator George ‘UKOGmonkey’ Boothby is amongst the favourites having topped the qualifying stage of the competition. James Baldwin and Marko Pejic were also expected to make their mark across the three-round title fight.
Sprint Race qualifying
The format for each round of the 2022 AES is a popular one in modern-day. Two qualifying sessions proceed first a Sprint and then a Main Race. The points structure will also be familiar to Formula 2 fans; the top eight then top 10 finishers respectively scoring.
With only three minutes to do the business, qualifying in the AES is not for the faint-hearted and it was a big statement from Pejic to get his campaign started. The German would line up in pole position ahead of Boothby. Michele Nerbi, second-placed in the qualifying stage, would round out the top three with Baldwin having a rather anonymous session ending up ninth on the grid.
A beautiful start for Boothby saw the Brit into the lead immediately. Further back, the nippy A110s were great to watch although Mathias Kuhn’s was perhaps bouncing a bit too much for his own liking. Heading wide at Europcar, it allowed Luke Whitehead to perform an unconventional pass through the RACC Chicane for sixth.
Baldwin’s progression ran under the radar but his early race pace was strong. Once past Johan Bergera, Kuhn was next on the list. The Frenchman was about to get a helping hand, however.
Whitehead put up a greater fight against Baldwin and it bit him badly. Losing sixth through the first turn, Kuhn was able to slip up the inside of the Renault corner.
The battle would rage on for the final points-paying positions, a rebuttal from Whitehead seeing one place back his way. Baldwin forged forward even further; the once lonely Michael Romagnoli was not able to keep his fifth place.
But despite having Pejic for company all race long, Boothby converted his qualifying stage pace into the best possible start. Nerbi claimed a rather quiet final podium place.
Main Race qualifying
With double the amount of time to work with and after an encouraging Sprint Race recovery drive, James Baldwin would place his car on the Main Race pole position.
Pejic earned a second front row start of the evening with Boothby salvaging a messy session to rescue third on the grid.
Finishing well in the opening contest, Andrea Miatto and Michele Nerbi were looking for another strong point haul from fourth and fifth respectively.
Miatto lost out the most off the launch falling behind both Nerbi and Whitehead early on. Rather unlike the Sprint, proceedings across the majority of the Main Race were much more akin to what we tend to expect from the Circuit de Barcelona-Catalunya; very little in the way of overtaking.
In fact, it would threaten to be almost twenty full minutes until notable action returned to our screens. After pressuring Nerbi for what must have seemed like an eternity, Whitehead finally managed to overtake the Italian.
It led to a snatching of position into the first corner the following lap with both Miatto and the ambitious Victor Nicolae rubbing salt into the wounds.
Nobody could disturb Baldwin’s march to victory and with the twenty-five points in tow, the lead of the championship heading into the second round.
Two would be a number haunting Pejic as he finished the day in that position after two silver medals. Boothby rounded out the podium spots and would find himself just five points off the top of the standings.
Alpine Esports 2022, Round 1, Sprint Race results
- George Boothby – 8 Laps
- Marko Pejic +0.319
- Michele Nerbi +1.869
- Andrea Miatto +2.558
- James Baldwin +6.333
- Michael Romagnoli +6.983
- Luke Whitehead +11.159
- Mathias Kuhn +11.396
Alpine Esports 2022, Round 1, Main Race results
- James Baldwin – 14 Laps
- Marko Pejic +2.418
- George Boothby +6.190
- Luke Whitehead +13.109
- Andrea Miatto +13.545
- Victor Nicolae +14.019
- Michele Nerbi +14.439
- Michael Romagnoli +14.860
- Davide Arduini +20.310
- Gaël Valero +26.665