The final round of the 2022 Alpine Esports Series saw James Baldwin survive an early scare to take the championship win.
The compact Alpine Esports Series (AES) calendar was always set to determine title favourites as early as the first round. Though this was the case as George Boothby and Marko Pejic joined James Baldwin at the top of the standings, the second round narrowed the odds down even further.
Baldwin won both races at Circuit Paul Ricard as Pejic struggled for pace and Boothby struggled with illness. Now the third round loomed with a minor miracle required to deny the former McLaren Shadow champion.
This year has been something of a renaissance for Baldwin, both virtually and in real world motorsport. Now it was down to just 40 minutes of racing to secure his first major honours in 2022.
Sprint Race Qualifying
Boothby had actually fallen to third in the overall standings coming into the final round thanks to the excellent form of Luke Whitehead in France. With his illness a distant memory, the one-time series leader was back on top with pole position.
Unfortunately for him and the rest of the field, Baldwin was not letting up – joining his countryman on the front row.
The aforementioned Whitehead would start fourth on the grid, continuing his late season charge, lining up behind Pejic in third who had the most work to do of those still in contention for the title.
One of many ex-German Grand Prix circuits, the Nürburgring looked stunning under the sunset as the Sprint Race got underway. A view even more beautiful for Boothby was the chaos in his rear view mirrors as he exited Turn 1.
Baldwin was left facing the wrong direction after Andrea Miatto clattered into Pejic who, in turn, smashed into the championship leader. Caught on the outer edge of the track, both Whitehead and Pejic were also inconvenienced.
With his nearest rival on the circuit – Whitehead – in sixth, Boothby hoped to buckle down and secure the win. Michele Nerbi and Mathias Kuhn sat second and third providing the closest threat to this ideal scenario.
The pair lay just a second away from the race leader as the first five minutes passed, Whitehead meanwhile had made his way up to fifth past Florian Bauer. The #3 car was at it again a few minutes later with Lucas Hörzing next to lose position.
Baldwin ultimately retired with nothing to gain mired in the lower twenties of the field. Kuhn, on the other hand, was only looking upward for his prospects. A mistake from Nerbi through the final corner with only two and a half minutes left to go was punished well by the Belgian.
Having done everything that was asked of him, Boothby celebrated with vigour as he crossed the line to gain a full ten points on Baldwin in the standings. Kuhn and Nerbi followed him home to the podium at arm’s length.
Main Race Qualifying
With a maximum of twenty-five points left to claim on the table, only three drivers remained in the hunt. Realistically, either Boothby or Whitehead had to now win the Main Race with Baldwin either not scoring or scoring very little.
The Sprint Race winner was on fire, taking pole position around the German venue once again. Both he and Whitehead ended up outqualifying Baldwin who would need to settle for fifth on the grid.
The wildcards within the top five for the final twenty-five-minute dash were Pejic and Michael Romagnoli – who found his way back into points contention following an anonymous first outing.
In complete defiance of what happened to him earlier, Baldwin was elbows out into the first corner. He forcibly directed Romagnoli to the wide line through Turn 1, taking fourth. Even better for Baldwin was Boothby’s underwhelming start. Pejic had seized upon the opportunity presented and took the lead.
The German, much like a lot of his career at the top end of simracing, had endured an inconsistent campaign thus far. Yet here, the speed on show was exactly why Veloce Esports signed him. Boothby just did not have an answer and was actually inviting pressure from both Whitehead and Baldwin behind as the contest reached half distance.
Of course, sitting pleasantly in fourth, Baldwin knew that the Alpine Esports Series was in the palm of his hands. There was no reason to risk his machine when the immediate duo ahead of him were so consumed with each other.
It was a mighty defensive drive from Boothby who had fended off Whitehead for a solid fifteen minutes, yet it wasn’t enough as Pejic won the race in style.
James Baldwin had survived a big scare on the final day to become the 2022 Alpine Esports Series champion!
SPRINT RACE RESULTS
- George Boothby – 8 Laps
- Mathias Kuhn – +1.267
- Michele Nerbi – +1.968
- Luke Whitehead – +2.505
- Lucas Hörzing – +6.456
- Davide Arduini – +9.879
- Mariusz Tworzydło – +10.090
- Gaël Valero – +13.005
MAIN RACE RESULTS
- Marko Pejic – 13 Laps
- George Boothby – +7.833
- Luke Whitehead – +8.090
- James Baldwin – +8.281
- Mathias Kuhn – +10.358
- Michael Romagnoli – +11.123
- Michele Nerbi – +11.564
- Mariusz Tworzydło – +14.223
- Davide Arduini – +16.150
- Carlo D’Elia – +16.796
ALPINE ESPORTS SERIES 2022 FINAL CHAMPIONSHIP POSITIONS
- James Baldwin 76 points
- George Boothby 67 points
- Marko Pejic 62 points
- Luke Whitehead 60 points
- Michele Nerbi 41 points
- Andrea Miatto 31 points
- Michael Romagnoli 22 points
- Mathias Kuhn 19 points
- Mariusz Tworzydło 10 points
- Victor Nicolae 9 points