Audi driver fired for cheating… in a virtual race!

The driver said was a "planned prank." Sometimes pranks can backfire -- really!

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Cheater
Photo by Xavier Bonilla / NurPhoto via Getty Images

Daniel Abt, 27, a German factory Formula E driver for Audi, was sacked and fined over the weekend when he substituted a ringer to drive a virtual race for him. He now joins NASCAR’s Mister N-word, Kyle Larson, as the newest member of the “virtual racing troublemaker’s club.”

Like many pro racing series during the COVID-19 pandemic, rather than waiting out the lockdown, Formula E, an FIA sanctioned all-electric open-wheel series, has taken their racing online into the virtual world. Abt asked Lorenz Hoerzing, 18, who is an experienced regular in sim racing to run as a surrogate.

cheater
The surrogate driver’s face is obscured by a microphone during the telecast.

Hoerzing also has been suspended from the sim racing series.

Abt released an English subtitled video, explaining his actions, and announcing that he “won’t be racing with the team anymore,” was related to a prank planned by the two. “It would be a funny move if a sim racer drove for me. We wanted to document it and create a funny story for the fans with it.”

Hoerzing, in Abt’s virtual race car, took the lead and held it throughout the race. Towards the end he made contact with driver Stoffel Vandoorne with Mercedes-Benz, opening the door for Nissan’s Oliver Rowland to win.

The Formula E series, which features a number of has-been and never-will-be drivers, was immediately suspicious. Abt had not done well in previous rounds of the virtual series. Once the “prank” was revealed, the series suspended and fined the pair (£10,000 to charity). Audi took further action in firing the ex-GP2 driver.

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What is even crazier about the scenario is Abt’s father runs the team! Abt is one of four drivers to have run in every Formula E race since its beginning in 2014. His father, Hans-Jürgen Abt, runs the company that oversees the Audi Formula E team: Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler.

“Shortly after the race, I realized myself that it did not end there and it suddenly went in a direction which I, myself, had not ever been able to even imagine in my dreams,” Abt stated on his video. “We did not think enough about the seriousness and the consequences of the situation.” The driver says he made a “huge mistake.”

Don’t sweat it Daniel. They may have done you a favor. You can always buy a ride in some other series that actually makes noise.

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9 COMMENTS

  1. yea maybe it was stupid on abt’s part but really ridiculous on Audi’s part to fire him??? the reality is it’s “virtual racing”…guess what not real racing!!! who gives a ishhhhhh

  2. A line in the sand had to be drawn. Now everyone involved knows to take it more seriously.
    Myself, personally, l think it’s ridiculous that a sickly, pale kid who’s never seen daylight all his life can win against ‘real’ drivers who have actually driven s motor vehicle.
    I agree that race cars should make noise but you can’t dis Formula E.
    Electric is the way the world is moving. Even F1 powerplants are hybrid. You don’t have to like it but you will have to get used to it.

    • Malcom, the FIA invited me to the two Formula E race weekends in Long Beach. I had to decline as I had a conflict: needed to sort my sock drawer.

      That said, F1 is HYBRID. Which means they still burn petrol. Frankly I took a step back from F1 a few years ago (since returned with great enthusiasm) when the 19,000 RPM screams went away. Many promoters of individual F1 races complained as well, for the same reason.

      Racing for me touches all five senses. Consider also who races in that series: “Has-been and never-will-be drivers…” That’s what the series attracts as far as talent.

      You can say “way the world is going,” however racing that only tickles four of my senses is something that I don’t take serious interest.

      Thanks for reading!

  3. Racing on a fancy game-boy is not the same as seat of the pants behind the wheel driving! If you have never been in a real race car on a real trace track, you can NEVER understand how DIFFERENT it is! I have ZERO interest in video game fake racing! IS IS NOT THE SAME… YES, I have driven REAL RACE CARS. Actually have for decades.

    • Rod, I have spoken to numerous drivers who have been participating in the virtual racing as part of their series commitments. All of them suggest the biggest caveat is “the lack of danger.” I’ve not heard of any fatalities so far, even in the full-on, force-feedback machines like the CXC simulators.

      I drive as well and couldn’t agree more. However, the simulator is really great as a preview prior to racing at a track that you have not run before. I did a simulation of Auto Club Speedway’s “Roval” before a race weekend and was quick right out of the box — as I knew all my visual queues, braking points, etc. So there is a purpose.

  4. perhaps somebody should give this ‘playstation kid’ the chance to show his talent in a real race car. But I made the same experience – my nephew (now 17) is always better than me in the sim, but on the real race track (in a kart) I’m still slightly faster

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