The Championship battle came to a head in the final round of the 2023 Alpine Esports Series powered by Binance. Schöniger wins the Main race and with it, the Title.
The third and deciding round of the 2023 Alpine Esports sim racing series took place around Circuit Ricardo Tormo in Valencia. With a $28,000 combined prize up for grabs for the overall winner (including a real Alpine GT4 driving experience), stakes were high heading into the last two races of the event.
Would current leader Dennis Schöniger hold on to add another trophy to his roster? Or would fellow Williams Esports driver Tinko van der Velde snatch the prize away from the German? Read on to find out!
You can watch the full race here, as well as on our sister site GrandPrix247.com.
Sprint qualifying recap
Schöniger has already proven himself as one of the fastest drivers in this year’s roster, and today could cement his status as a cut above the rest. The field would only be able to set a couple of quick laps to set the grid for the Sprint race.
Van der Velde in the #2 car was the first out on track; he would set the first representative lap time with a 01:38.837. James Baldwin and Schöniger set their times just behind, with Baldwin momentarily taking pole position. But it would be the Polish driver Vojtech Fiala who would top the timing screens with a three-tenths improvement: a 01:38.540.
As drivers began to set their second flying laps, it was Baldwin who would climb up to the top with a 01:38.445. Schöniger would go just a quarter of a tenth slower, starting alongside the Briton for the Sprint race. Van der Velde 0.2 seconds off pole position was only good enough for fifth.
Sprint race recap
Just 15 minutes for the Sprint race, with a smaller haul of points available for the top eight finishers. A brand new circuit for many of the 18 drivers on track; would they all make it around the track in one piece?
Fastest at the flag was Baldwin, who maintained his lead through Turn 1. Fiala with an opportunistic move on Mateja, snatching third place away from the latter.
Schöniger was sticking right behind the 2022 Champion Baldwin, and set the fastest lap of the race at the end of lap two. Well within striking distance of the Briton, but he would be happy to stay back and secure a solid eight points. Especially with van der Velde languishing further back in fifth place.
Intense action between Kamil Pawlowski, Isaac Gillissen and Mattia Zampedri, momentarily three-wide on lap three in a battle for 11th position. Pawlowski would eventually spin into the gravel with eight minutes to go, dropping to 17th and subsequently retiring.
As usual, stewards were handing out penalties left, right and centre. 15 seconds for Mateusz Tyszkiewicz for barging Charlie Crossland off track and five seconds for Zampedri as well. A later drive-through penalty would ruin Maciej Malinowski’s race, supposedly for multiple track limit violations.
Jaroslav ‘Jardier’ Honzik showed us his former Champion material with a delightful switchback move on Marc Tol, albeit for only 14th.
With three minutes remaining, the battle up front had turned into a three-way tussle with Fiala joining the fight. But things would stay as they were come the chequered flag, Baldwin ahead of Schöniger with Fiala taking the final podium spot. Schöniger extends his Championship lead to 12 points over van der Velde
Main qualifying recap
More time for the drivers to set a fast lap for main qualifying, with more opportunities to perfect their lines and corner speeds for the perfect time. Sunny weather round Circuit Ricardo Tormo would bunch up the field even more with finer margins.
Baldwin was fastest in the opening stages of the session, a 01:37.967 already faster than pole for the previous session. Marko Pejic, who sat out the Sprint race, would go into second position ahead of Fiala and Mateja with six minutes of qualifying left.
But Schöniger would improve massively with a 01:37.810 to snatch pole position from Baldwin. Both Pejic and Baldwin would improve, with the former ahead of the latter in second and third respectively.
Yet to set a lap was van der Velde, he would need a mighty lap to challenge the top times on the screen. With four minutes remaining he would set a 01:38.107 for seventh, could he improve to put the pressure on leader Schöniger?
The answer would be no, while Schöniger improved by five milliseconds to keep hold of pole. The Title challenge would be completely in his hands for the deciding race of the 2023 Alpine Esports Series.
Main race recap
A 25-minute showdown in the deciding race of the 2023 Alpine Esports Series powered by Binance. A longer race makes tyre temperatures and tyre wear a more important consideration; who would stay on top of their tyres in the main race?
The running order will stay put on the opening lap, although Pejic was side by side with Schöniger for a much of the first sector. Fiala lost fourth to Mateja, but it wouldn’t take long for the Pole to take the position back with a move on the inside on the second lap.
Mateja would unfortunately upset the stewards, receiving a five second penalty which would prove costly for the driver. Van der Velde just behind would profit from this, moving up to P5 with twenty minutes to go. But he would need to do a lot more and have some considerable luck too to take the Title.
Schöniger, Pejic and Baldwin the top three after three laps. Though Baldwin would power past Pejic on the main straight to claim second place; now to close the one second gap to leader Schöniger which would be a somewhat difficult task.
Penalties for Blajer, Geert Fischer and Pawlowski would prove costly with such a bunched up running order. Meanwhile Schöniger extending his lead to 1.5 seconds with a quarter of an hour left, would he stroll to the Title in dominant fashion?
Van der Velde was feeling the heat, as he took to the gravel while attempting an overtake on Mateja for fifth place. He wouldn’t lose any positions but his chance of challenging for the lead very much gone at this point.
With many drivers thinking about tyre conservation, action on track did die down in the latter stages of the race. Schöniger continued to extend his advantage at the front of the pack, over three seconds ahead of Baldwin with just a handful of laps remaining. We did see Fiala make a slight mistake and drop two positions, promoting van der Velde to fourth. Still not enough for the Championship though…
Schöniger wins the Main race and with it, the 2023 Title in dominant style! Baldwin in third takes second in the Championship, while Pejic finished the Main race in third. Van der Velde in fourth after Mateja’s penalty would secure third in the final Standings.
2023 Alpine Esports Series Champion: Dennis Schöniger!
A massive congratulations to Dennis Schöniger, who showed remarkable race craft and speed and held his nerve against 34 other determined competitors to take the 2023 Title. He scored points in every race of the series, a true testament to his amazing driving ability.
The newly-crowned Champion couldn’t hide his excitement after the race: “Amazing, it’s amazing, not much more to say. You are thinking about everything, driving in real life is the big target!”
The Williams Esports driver from Germany will take home $25,000 worth of Alpine Fan Tokens as well as $3,000 worth of $QANX tokens. But perhaps best of all, he will be granted the opportunity to step into a real Alpine A110 GT4 car in an exclusive driving and coaching experience around Circuit Paul Ricard!
Tinko van der Velde snatched second in the Standings from James Baldwin in the final race. He will receive $15,000 worth of Alpine Fan Tokens, as well as a state-of-the-art Trak Racer Alpine Racing TRX Sim Rig. Still a very impressive overall result and reward for the Dutchman.
Baldwin was proud of his third-place finish but was slightly disappointed to lose his reigning Champion status. He said: “P3 in the Championship with this grid, I’ll take it. I tried hard to get P2 but it wasn’t enough in the end.”
Yet another virtual trophy added to Schöniger’s growing collection. The future looks bright for the Alpine Esports Series’ latest Champion…