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Alpine Esports Series: Schöniger retains the points lead despite victories by Baldwin and van der Velde

With the Alpine Esports Series underway in 2023, many would have expected reigning champion James Baldwin to take an early lead. Still, the pundits were stunned by the outstanding performance of Dennis Schöniger, who totally dominated the first lap sprint and feature races.

The German racked up maximum points at the Circuit Paul Ricard, hoping to keep the ball going in Baldwin’s own backyard. The Silverstone circuit awaited us and for the chasing group – including the Brit, compatriot Luke Whitehead and Dutchman Tinko van der Velde – the difficult conditions in the UK offered an exciting first lap of qualifying.

Sprint qualification

Rain was seeping in from the clouds above, meaning many of the best times were set earlier in the session. This couldn’t have fitted Baldwin better as someone who generally settles in quickly. His fastest time was enough for pole position, a tenth ahead of Dominik Blajer, who could also count himself among the championship contenders.

In fact, Schöniger was a little surprised. The championship leader would start from sixth place; Not terrible, but requires a lot of work in the sprint. Between him and the front row were Vojtech Fiala, Marko Pejic, who was getting back on form, and the aforementioned van der Velde.

Whitehead was certainly the most disappointed; he didn’t even make the top ten.

sprint race

Poor Michael Romagnoli appeared to be the pre-agreed Alpine Esports Series punching bag based on the evidence from Round 1 and this first round. He couldn’t prevail and was repeatedly sent off until he finally settled into fourteenth place within the points. Fiala also lost early, which was great news for Schöniger.

Every point counted for the German in this 15-minute sprint, so it seemed worth its weight in gold to make up a position in one lap. Unfortunately, his next overtaking maneuver didn’t come until more than half the race later. This time it was a Pejic error down at Brooklands that paved the way, although by that point Baldwin and Blajer were already out of reach for the entire group.

Blajer’s final hooray came in Village but was silenced by a massive dose of oversteer. This gave Baldwin some consolation in crossing the finish line first while van der Velde completed the podium.

Alpine Esports Series, Silverstone, Assetto Corsa Competizione

Alpine Esports 2023 Round 2 Sprint Race Results

  1. James Baldwin – 7 rounds
  2. Dominik Blajer – +0.834
  3. Tinko van der Velde – +4.139
  4. Dennis Schoniger – +4,824
  5. Marko Pejic – +5.768
  6. Luke Mateja – +6.327
  7. Vojtech Fiala – +7.130
  8. Luke Whitehead – +10,307
  9. Kamil Pavlovsky – +11.054
  10. Mathias Kuhn – +13,787

functional qualification

In qualifying for the feature race, the clouds parted for everyone, meaning the track finally stayed dry. In theory, this would put more power in the hands of the fastest in the wet. Baldwin proved otherwise. Only eighth place was disastrous, especially given the developing storyline leading up to it.

Van der Velde and Blajer weren’t content to watch the title fight unfold out of reach. The Dutchman put in a phenomenal lap and denied Dominik pole position, although the pole-sitter still had a good chance of victory after making his second consecutive front row start.

Schöniger did better this time and was fourth behind Fiala. Mateusz Tyskiewicz disrupted the established record with a thrilling performance that earned a top-five start.

Alpine Esports Series, Silverstone, Assetto Corsa Competizione

Feature Race

“Punchy” would be the word that best describes Schöniger’s first round. He had sped past Fiala through Copse after reacting quicker at the lights and put in a powerful attack on Blajer, who was second. No move was without mistakes – throwing his opponent off course, going deep – and so he had to settle for third place for the time being.

As for the three-way leadership battles? This one was exciting. Van der Velde defended masterfully, Blajer had to juggle between attacking and defending Schöniger. The tide turned against Blajer mid-race as Schöniger grew more optimistic of claiming second place. That optimism was justified because he was through at Brooklands with six minutes to go.

Alpine Esports Series, Silverstone, Assetto Corsa Competizione

By this time, however, van der Velde had freed himself. His gap had grown to 1.5 seconds, so he was now faced with the task of keeping his lap times constant. That lead naturally grew as the duel for second place escalated into a six-way battle.

Alpine Esports Series, Silverstone, Assetto Corsa Competizione

Despite the threat of tears, everyone remained respectful of one another. Van der Velde rolled home in luxury while behind Schöniger and Blajer secured strong podium points. Baldwin was only able to work his way up to sixth place, making for a really tense championship fight that progressed to the finals.

Alpine Esports 2023 Round 2 Feature Race Results

  1. Tinko van der Velde – 12 laps
  2. Dennis Schoniger – +2,252
  3. Dominik Blajer – +2.858
  4. Vojtech Fiala – +3,272
  5. Mateusz Tyszkiewicz – +4,680
  6. James Baldwin – +4.757
  7. Luke Mateja – +4.972
  8. Marko Pejic – +5,820
  9. Isaac Gillissen – +6,897
  10. Mathias Kuhn – +8.273

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