Driver caught using impostor in virtual race

LONDON • E-sports have risen in popularity as a result of the shutdown affecting most conventional sports due to the coronavirus pandemic. However, cheating can occur virtually, just like in real life.

Audi Formula E driver Daniel Abt was disqualified and ordered to pay €10,000 (S$15,500) to charity on Sunday for getting a professional gamer to compete under his name in an official e-sports race.

The German, who apologised for "having called in outside help", was also stripped of all points won to date in the all-electric series Race At Home Challenge, which features drivers using simulators remotely.

"I did not take it as seriously as I should have," said the 27-year-old, accepting the punishment for sporting misconduct. "I am especially sorry about this because I know how much work has gone into this project on the part of the Formula E organisation.

"I am aware that my offence has a bitter aftertaste but it was never meant with any bad intention."

Abt's "ringer", pro gamer Lorenz Hoerzing, was disqualified from all future rounds of the separate Challenge Grid competition.

The 15-lap race around a virtual Berlin Tempelhof track was won by Britain's Oliver Rowland for Nissan e.dams with Belgian Stoffel Vandoorne second for Mercedes.

Vandoorne had made clear on his Twitch stream during the race that he suspected somebody else was driving under Abt's name and pretending to be the German. He was backed up by two-time Formula E champion Jean-Eric Vergne.

"Please ask Daniel Abt to put his Zoom next time he's driving, because like Stoffel said, I'm pretty sure he wasn't in," the Frenchman added.

However, Formula E leader Antonio Felix da Costa appeared less concerned, tweeting: "It's just a game guys. We all know Daniel as a fun guy and a joker."

Formula E did not explain how the deception had happened but the-race.com website said organisers had cross-referenced the IP addresses of competitors and realised Abt, who had qualified in second, could not have been at the wheel.

Vandoorne was seen calling Abt's mobile phone but the German did not answer.

The e-sports series features regular Formula E drivers competing from their homes and aims to provide some action for fans with racing on hold since March 13 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 26, 2020, with the headline 'Driver caught using impostor in virtual race'. Subscribe