Daniel Abt sacked by Audi Formula E team after cheating in virtual race


Daniel Abt says that he and Audi's ways will "split from now on" as he loses his seat after allowing an imposter to take his place in virtual race

Daniel Abt

Daniel Abt has said that he has been dropped by Audi’s Formula E team after recruiting a professional sim racer to drive for him in a virtual competition at the weekend.

The German driver was meant to compete in the Formula E Race at Home Challenge, but allowed Lorenz Hoerzing, an experienced gamer, to take his place without telling other competitors.

A camera trained on Abt’s seat was obscured, but other drivers raised suspicions following Saturday’s race where his car finished third. He came clean when organisers found that his location didn’t match that of the driver.

In a video released on YouTube, Abt revealed that he had been fired by the team that he had raced for over the past six years.

“Today I was informed in a conversation with Audi, that our ways will split from now on,” he said. “We won’t be racing together in Formula E any more and to co-operation has ended.”

Audi officials wanted to distance themselves from any form of cheating and are understood to have seen no alternative to the decision, even though Abt had nothing to gain, with no championship points or prize money awarded.

“I made a huge mistake, I stand by it. I hope you can forgive me,” he said, apologising to his family, friends and fans.

In the German video with English subtitles, Abt said that he thought it would be fun to allow a sim racer to take his place. He added that the game, based on rFactor2, had “nothing in common” with real racing, and that it would show that gamers could compete with professional drivers.

He said that would have revealed the ruse after the event, and had talked about the plan openly on gaming streams ahead of the race.

“Shortly after the race, I realised that it did not end there,” he said. “It suddenly went in a direction which I myself had not ever been able to even imagine in my dreams that this would happen. We did not think enough about the seriousness and the consequences of the situation. We made a huge mistake there.”

Initially, Abt was disqualified from the race and asked to pay a €10,000 charitable donation. He also apologised.

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Today, Audi gave its response. “Integrity, transparency and consistent compliance with applicable rules are top priorities for Audi,” the company’s motor sport division said in a statement. “This applies to all activities the brand is involved in without exception. For this reason, Audi Sport has decided to suspend Daniel Abt with immediate effect.”

Abt’s statement followed hours later, confirming his departure from the team. Colleagues are said to be stunned by how a “stupid prank” has escalated.

However, it is only the latest esports incident to spill over into the real world, with often serious consequences. Earlier this year, Bubba Wallace lost one of his sponsors after quitting an eNASCAR event mid-race when he wasn’t doing very well. Two weeks later, NASCAR driver Kyle Larson was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing for using a racist slur in his stream during an iRacing event.

At the beginning of this month, Simon Pagenaud created outrage when – feeling unfairly treated by Lando Norris in a virtual race at Indianapolis – he caused a crash with the young driver, who was leading the race.

Daniel Abt has been on the Formula E grid since its first season in 2014-15, joining after two years in GP2. He has also competed in the World Endurance Championship, racing at Le Mans in 2015.

“I feel like I couldn’t fall any deeper,” he said at the end of the video. “But I will get up again, I will come back.”