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Audi fires driver for using a ringer in charity esports race
Daniel Abt in happier times, taking part in a sim race at this year's Santiago ePrix in Chile. After doing unusually well in a sim race this weekend, it turned out Abt had brought in a ringer.

Enlarge / Daniel Abt in happier times, taking part in a sim race at this year’s Santiago ePrix in Chile. After doing unusually well in a sim race this weekend, it turned out Abt had brought in a ringer. (credit: Audi Communications Motorsport / Michael Kunkel)

The combination of racing drivers and esports is turning out to be full of drama. When COVID-19 put a stop to real-world racing in March, professional series moved the action, using sims like iRacing and rFactor 2 along with streaming platforms like Twitch to give drivers something to do and fans something to watch. But the transition hasn’t been a smooth one for some of the professional drivers, particularly those who had little interest or experience in the simulation side of things before the pandemic.

Audi’s Daniel Abt is the latest to discover that it’s not just a game when you’re being paid to show up. The latest incident took place on Saturday in Formula E’s Race at Home challenge, where the sport’s real-world stars show up to compete in rFactor 2 to raise money for UNICEF. Set in a virtual version of Berlin’s Tempelhof airport, Abt qualified well and raced to third place, a performance that was in stark contrast to his previous esports races. This, and the fact that he was obscured from view in his video feed, raised suspicions among some of the other drivers.

Rage-quitting, racist remarks, now a ringer

Those suspicions had merit. When the esports race organizers investigated, they checked IP address data and discovered the presence of a ringer—sim racing professional Lorenz Hoerzing, who raced pretending to be Abt. Disqualified from the race, Abt was ordered to donate $10,817 (€10,000) to charity. (Hoerzing was also stripped of his sixth-place finish in the companion event held for professional sim racers.) After admitting he swapped in Hoerzing, Abt apologized in a statement on Sunday.

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