Williams Esports driver Dennis Schoniger turned in a perfect performance at the first round of the 2023 Alpine Esports Series to take a commanding championship lead in the three-round series.
Schoniger had been the top qualifier from the online challenge which saw the best 35 players worldwide selected for the one-make series that places drivers into the Alpine A110 GT4. He carried that form through to the first sprint race qualifying session at Circuit Paul Ricard as he took pole position from defending champion James Baldwin by just under seven-hundredths in a typically tight session.
Baldwin got the better start of the two, and they ended up running side-by-side for much of the first sector before the line ended up favouring Schoniger and allowed him to slot into the lead. Surprisingly, given how close the times had been in qualifying, Schoniger settled into a rhythm that was just too quick for Baldwin and soon pulled out an advantage of three-quarters of a second. Baldwin himself was a similar margin ahead of Vojtech Fiala behind.
As the race approached its conclusion Maciej Malinowski went for the podium, but kept his foot in too long and sent Fiala off the outside of turn two. Malinowski would cross the finish line in third but with a five-second penalty from the stewards to gift Luke Whitehead a podium position.
Alpine Esports Series Race 1 Results:
1. Denis Schoniger – 8 laps
2. James Baldwin +2.432s
3. Luke Whitehead +4.049s
Shoniger underlined his dominance in the 25-minute feature race qualifying, which saw him put in the only lap in the 2’01 range to claim pole position by a third of a second from fellow Williams driver Fiala - a larger gap than covered the next 14 drivers - with Baldwin lining up third.
Though Baldwin again got a good start, Fiala covered off the attack into turn one. In turn that allowed his team-mate Schoniger to pull clear, and further attempts from Baldwin to get past Fiala just made the gap at the front even larger – drawing Tinko van der Velde into the mix. After running three-wide briefly down the Mistral Straight, van der Velde tagged Baldwin’s rear; that small contact allowed van der Velde past despite further defence from Baldwin, and also brought Dominik Blajer and Whitehead into the picture.
With Schoniger almost seven seconds clear from the battles behind he coasted to victory. Fiala kept second, while van der Velde crossed the line third – though it remains to be seen if any post-race penalties are due – ahead of Baldwin. The provisional points table sees Schoniger leading by 14 points from Fiala, with Baldwin a point further back in third.
Alpine Esports Series Race 2 Results:
1. Denis Schoniger – 13 laps
2. Vojtech Fiala +6.999s
3. Tinko van der Velde +7.600s
Joshua Rogers became the second driver to score two round wins in ESL R1, as he led Porsche Coanda team-mate Mitchell deJong home in the penultimate regular season round at Circuit de Spa-Francorchamps.
The quarter-finals rounds again threw up some surprise results, with double round winner Daire McCormack (Williams) eliminated in his race following a poor qualifying and James Baldwin (Mercedes) missing out after two successive podium finishes. Jiri Toman (R8G) was the highest-ranked casualty of the quarter-finals after he was involved in two incidents in his race. Dayne Warren (Porsche), Mitchell deJong (Porsche), Kevin Siggy (Redline), and Maximilian Benecke (Mouz) took the quarter-final wins.
Sebastian Job (G2) continued his fine form, taking a lights-to-flag victory in the first semi-final to qualify for his second successive final. He’d lead championship leader Luke Bennett (Redline) home, ahead of the Porsches of Warren and deJong. Rogers then performed the same feat in a dominant performance in the second semi-final to pick up his ninth win of the season. He’d be trailed by Joni Tormala (G2) and Kevin Ellis Jr. (ART).
The Porsche driver again qualified on pole position for the final, and kept the lead throughout despite early attention from Enzo Bonito (Redline). The Italian driver wasn’t quite able to make an opening lap move through Les Combes stick, and that allowed deJong to sneak past into second. With ten race wins – two in finals – Rogers moves up to second overall, just four points behind Luke Bennett, while Bennett’s Redline team has opened up a 72-point lead in the teams table.
3. Enzo Bonito (Team Redline – BMW M4 GT3_ +1.395s
Despite Sebastian Job claiming the Porsche Esports Carrera Cup GB championship in the previous round, the Red Bull driver wasn’t letting up in the finale and claimed his eighth pole position in eight rounds.
However the sprint race didn’t go his way for the first time, with Josh Malin claiming the lead early on and William Chadwick overtaking late in the race. With Malin throwing the win away out of Paddock Hill, that gave Chadwick victory and confirmed his championship runner-up status.
Porsche Esports Carrera Cup GB Race 15 results:
1. William Chadwick (Altus Esports) - 18 laps
2. Sebastian Job (Red Bull Racing) - +0.905s
3. Matthew Emery (Independent) - +4.293s
That effectively just left the Am championship to decide, and it was Leo Gariboli who’d secure that courtesy of a pair of class wins as his main rival Gareth Higgins could only place second in each race.
Jack Sedgwick though would claim the final race win of the season, passing polesitter Leon Penn on lap one and cantering to victory.