Daniel Abt, a professional Formula E driver, has been suspended from his team following an admission that he did not, in fact, pilot his virtual car to a third-place finish in a recent race. Instead, Abt's avatar was being driven by a professional sim racer.
Other drivers accused Abt of not being at the wheel during this last weekend's Formula E Race At Home Challenge, with suspicions rising over Abt's video feed obscuring the driver and his in-game behavior being different than usual. One driver even attempted to rouse Abt by calling his phone, receiving no reply.
According to a report from The Race, event organizers cross-referenced IP addresses and discovered that Abt could not have possibly been driving in the sim race. Abt then released a personal statement, apologizing to his team, his fans, and fellow drivers.
"I am aware that my offence has a bitter aftertaste, but it was never meant with any bad intention," said Abt. The driver accepted a disqualification and donated €10,000 to a charity.
This morning, it was confirmed that Abt's team Audi Sport would be suspending him from all competitions for his involvement in the scandal. His sim racing ringer, Lorenz Hoerzing, has also been disqualified from all future rounds of the Challenge Grid competition, a separate racing event, via Reuters.
Many real-life sports have taken to virtual arenas amid the ongoing COVID-19 health crisis, from baseball stars in MLB The Show to tennis stars and celebrities playing Mario Tennis. Sim racing has also been tangential, in some way, to real-life racing for some time before this year, though not without controversy. Driver Kyle Larson was dropped by his team over a racial slur said during an iRacing event in April.
Still, a pro Formula E driver bringing in a sim racing ringer has got to be a first. Though after the fallout of this particular incident, it's likely going to be the last, at least for some time.
Lead image via Formula E racing.