With no real-life electric car racing likely to take place for at least the next couple of months, since mid-April Formula-E has been hosting official online races as part of its ‘Race at Home Challenge’. And things are getting spicy…
These races are contested by proper Formula-E drivers – the very same blokes who’d be racing for real had the series not been put on hold – using the rFactor2 PC sim, and taken just as seriously as the real thing. The fifth round took place last weekend – Nissan E-Dams driver Oliver Rowland won, Mercedes’ Stoffel Vandoorne finished second and Audi Sport’s Daniel Abt third.
Only all was not as it seemed. After the race, a number of drivers alleged Abt had not actually been in control of his #66 Audi. His second-place in qualifying and third-place finish were by far his best results yet – until this weekend he hadn’t qualified higher than ninth, and his best race result was 15th. Moreover, Abt didn’t partake in post-race interviews, and though his webcam had been on during the race, his face was obscured.
Then the truth emerged – Abt wasn’t driving. He had enlisted a professional sim-racer called Lorenz Hoerzing to race in his car, under his name. On Sunday Abt, who’s been a Formula-E driver since 2014, was disqualified, stripped of his points and ordered to pay a €10,000 or 350,000 Thai baht fine to charity.
In a statement, the German apologised: “I did not take it as seriously as I should have. I am aware that my offence has a bitter aftertaste, but it was never meant with any bad intention.”
And now Abt has been full-on suspended by Audi Sport, meaning he could well lose his seat when real-life racing eventually resumes. Blimey. He’s promised a statement this evening.
Meanwhile Hoerzing has been barred from the ‘Race at Home Challenge’ – he was officially competing (as himself) in the ‘Challenge’ grid, which is made up of esports racers and run alongside the main event.