Yet another evening of top-class sim racing was on display for round two of the Alpine Esports Series powered by Binance. Tinko van der Velde closes the gap to Championship leader Dennis Schöniger heading into the final round.
Just two races remain in the prestigious Esports event, which attracts some of the greatest racing talents in the world. It’s all to play for at the final round, with a mouth-watering $28,000 combined prize up for grabs for the overall winner.
But how did the host of 25 drivers get on around the iconic Silverstone track for the second round of the 2023 Alpine Esports Series? Williams Esports driver Dennis Schöniger leads the Championship following a dominant drive at Circuit Paul Ricard; can he hold off the likes of second-placed Vojtech Fiala and 2022 Champion James Baldwin around the historic Grand Prix circuit? Read on to find out!
Schöniger took pole at the previous round at Circuit Paul Ricard, would he set the fastest lap this time round as well?
With just six minutes to set a representative time, the field of 25 sim racers could not afford any mistakes. The rain was pouring, which would inevitably result in a mixed-up starting grid. First to lay down the marker would be Schöniger, as he looked to set a time in clear air. Could anyone improve on a 2:12.215.
Reigning Champion Baldwin toppled the German driver from the top of the timing screen, setting a time almost half a second quicker than the provisional Championship leader.
Impressive times were put in by Dominic Blajer and Tinko van der Velde, but they couldn’t go any faster than Baldwin’s 2:11.720. The Briton would start the Sprint race on pole position, while Schöniger would have to settle for a start on the third row.
Plenty of overtaking opportunities around the Silverstone Circuit, but who would come out on top in the 15-minute Sprint?
Baldwin maintained his lead into Turn 1 as the rain continued to pour. Schöniger moving up to fifth position by the end of the first lap in his charge up the field.
Michael Romagnoli was getting pushed around by competitors around him; contact with Charlie Crossland sending him onto the grass and all the way down to 14th place.
Only the top eight drivers would score in this race, and Ferrari Esports driver Kamil Pawlowski was well aware of this. He was on the defensive from Luke Whitehead in a battle for P8; could he hold on?
At the head of the field, Blajer was sticking to the rear of Baldwin. Setting the fastest lap a clear indication that the former was hungry for the victory. As in the previous round, time penalties were a common theme. Victor Nicolae and Romagnoli received ten seconds added to their race time for dangerous driving.
Schöniger showed his superb race craft with a stunning overtake on Marko Pejic, up to P4 for the Williams Esports driver. Just two-tenths separating Blajer from leader Baldwin with five minutes to go; would the Briton hold on to win his first race of the 2023 Alpine Esports Series?
The answer came on the final lap, a small mistake by Blajer allowing Baldwin to open up a one-second gap and win race three of the series.
The track was bone dry for the second part of this Alpine Esports round, which would inevitably level out the playing field. 11 minutes for the main qualifying session, allowing each driver the opportunity to perfect their lines and speed for the ideal lap time.
This time it was Baldwin to set the first flying lap, but lacking any slipstream from cars in front it was not a particularly fast lap. The first phase of the main qualifying was eventually headed by Blajer with a 2:07.697. Mateusz Tyszkiewicz was just five-thousandths of a second slower, with Fiala taking third a further three hundredths down on the Pole.
Times continued to drop as rubber continued to be laid down on the racing line. Fiala stole the top spot with a 2:07.687 with three minutes to go of the session. All drivers would have one more chance to improve on their times.
But a familiar figure in the shape of Schöniger would snatch pole from Fiala, while Baldwin would only move up to seventh.
The starting grid would change right at the death however, with van der Velde and Blajer setting quicker laps to lock out the front row. Fiala and Schöniger on the second row, while Baldwin would ultimately languish down in eighth. Perhaps a setup error from the reigning Champ?
The weather was sunny as the 24 drivers set off for the Alpine Esports final race. Van der Velde would keep the lead, a little bit of contact with second-placed Blajer a heart-in-mouth moment for everyone watching.
Schöniger profited off mistakes from those ahead and moved ahead of Fiala to take third place on the first lap.
A flawless start from the leading Dutchman; van der Velde over a second ahead in the opening stages of the race. But Blajer would slowly inch back towards the leader, and was back within slipstream range by the end of lap two.
With 20 minutes left of the race, the top three were separated by just over a second. Schöniger had closed the gap to Blajer to make it a three-way battle for the lead.
Meanwhile Baldwin had made a single place up from his starting position and was stuck in seventh behind Lukas Mateja. At this rate it would be difficult to challenge Schöniger for the Championship into the final round.
Great racing between Tyszkiewicz and Mateja for fifth position, as the two drivers went side by side on multiple occasions with Baldwin stalking close behind.
The top three continued to tussle for position, allowing Fiala in fourth to close in on the leading trio. But intense action between Blajer and Schöniger would allow van der Velde to pull out a significant gap in first with less than 10 minutes left on the clock.
Further behind, Baldwin pulled off a clean overtake on Mateja to claim sixth position. Back in front, a slight mistake from Blajer invited Schöniger to move alongside through Luffield, and finish off the move for second by the end of the straight.
With five minutes remaining, the pressure was on for the field to give it their all and score as many points as possible. Van der Velde now held over a two-second lead going into the last lap of the Main race.
However, no moves were made on the final lap, van der Velde claiming the victory with Schöniger and Blajer rounding out the podium.
Baldwin commented on the racing around Silverstone. He said: “I lacked pace in the main event, it’s confusing but great battles.”
Van der Velde couldn’t be happier about his huge points haul in this round: “I didn’t expect it, my practice was not great and I felt scared for the races. Very happy about that, didn’t crack under pressure.”
Van der Velde closes the gap to Schöniger in the overall Championship Standings, just eight points between them heading to Valencia for the final two races. Blajer and Baldwin are tied for third on 38 points apiece and are still very much in contention for Alpine Esports Champion status.
What’s next in the Alpine Esports Series?
Make sure to tune in for the deciding round of the 2023 Alpine Esports Series powered by Binance to see who will take the ultimate prize. The action will be free to watch on our website at 19:30 BST on May 25th, as well as our sister site simrace247.com.