Audi Sport suspends Formula E racer after cheating in virtual race

Daniel Abt wasn't behind the wheel of his simulation rig, but had a stand-in race instead, he acknowledged.

Sean Szymkowski
It all started with Gran Turismo. From those early PlayStation days, Sean was drawn to anything with four wheels. Prior to joining the Roadshow team, he was a freelance contributor for Motor Authority, The Car Connection and Green Car Reports. As for what's in the garage, Sean owns a 2016 Chevrolet SS, and yes, it has Holden badges.
Sean Szymkowski
2 min read

We've seen a handful of "whoopsie" moments take place as motorsport organizations try their hand at virtual racing events to tide fans over during coronavirus-related hiatuses, but pretending to compete is perhaps another level.

Sport's Formula E driver, Daniel Abt, acknowledged that he wasn't the person driving a simulation rig during the ABB Formula E Race at Home event for charity, in which his number 66 Audi race car placed third. Instead, the racer had used a professional sim racer stand-in to run the event. Audi Sport issued a statement Tuesday saying Abt was suspended from the team with "immediate effect" and was disqualified from the race.

"He directly apologized for this on the following day and accepted the disqualification," Audi Sport added in its statement.

On the track in Audi's 2018 Formula E racer

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According to motorsport website The Race, event organizers cross-referenced IP addresses that showed there was no way Abt could have been competing during the event. The outlet also reported Abt faced a $10,000-plus fine. Reuters reported Abt allowed pro gamer Lorenz Hörzing to compete for him during the virtual race, and the gamer was also disqualified for all future rounds of a separate virtual race series.

In a lengthy video statement, Abt said the driver swap was a plan hatched with Hörzing as a joke of sorts and it was never his intention to have someone take his place to drive, place and "keep quiet about it."

Debate has broken out over how seriously professional drivers should take virtual sports. Previously, NASCAR racer Bubba Wallace saw a sponsor pull support after Wallace quit an event midrace when another driver caused an incident on the virtual racetrack. The sponsor, Blue-Emu, delivered real-world repercussions as it discontinued all involvement with the driver. And we're back to physical tracks as the first NASCAR races restarted this month.

Watch this: Hitting the virtual circuit with former Formula E champ Sébastien Buemi