The combination of racing driver and esport is dramatic. When COVID-19 stopped real racing in March, professional series moved the action with Sims like iRacing and rFactor 2 along with streaming platforms like Twitch to do something for the drivers and see something for the fans. However, the transition did not go smoothly for some professional drivers, especially for those who had little interest or experience in simulation prior to the pandemic.
Audi Daniel Abt is the latest to discover that when you get paid to show up, it’s not just a game. The most recent incident occurred on Saturday at the Formula E Race at Home Challenge, in which the real stars of the sport turn up to take part in competitions rFactor 2 Collect money for UNICEF. Abbot, who plays in a virtual version of Berlin’s Tempelhof Airport, qualified well and finished third, an achievement that was in stark contrast to his previous sports races. This and the fact that he wasn’t visible in his video feed, Suspected by some of the other drivers.
Outbursts of anger, racist expressions, now an alarm clock
These suspicions were justified. When the organizers of the esport race researched, they checked the IP address details and found that one Ringtone– Sim racing professional Lorenz Hoerzing, who pretended to be an abbot. Abt was excluded from the race and was commissioned to donate $ 10,817 to a charity. (Hoerzing was also deprived of his sixth place in the accompanying event for professional Sim racing drivers and excluded from participating in this series.) After Abt admitted that he had swapped in Hoerzing, he apologized in a statement on Sunday.
“I would like to apologize to Formula E, all the fans, my team and my fellow passengers for asking for outside help during the race on Saturday. I didn’t take it as seriously as I should have. I am special.” I’m sorry because I know how much work the Formula E organization put into this project. I am aware that my offense has a bitter aftertaste, but it was never meant to be bad. Of course I accept the disqualification from the race. I will also donate 10,000 euros to a charitable project, “he said.
The other shoe of the Audi Sport ABT Schaffler team failed on Tuesday announced that Abbot was placed on a bench with immediate effect. “Integrity, transparency and consistent compliance with the applicable regulations have top priority for Audi. This applies without exception to all of the brand’s activities. For this reason, Audi Sport has decided to suspend Daniel Abt with immediate effect,” says a statement. (The irony of this from one of the companies involved in Dieselgate was not lost in everyone.)
According to my count, this is now the fourth case in which a professional racing driver is stuck online. In early April, NASCAR’s Bubba Wallace lost a sponsor after ending an esport event with rage. A week later, Kyle Larson and his team released Chevrolet for dropping the N-word at another NASCAR esports event. And in early May, a drama flared up between IndyCar fans and Formula 1 when aspiring F1 star Lando Norris was deliberately ruined when he was invited to participate in the IndyCar Pro Driver Esport series, which the regulars embarrassed this series.
The start of an anti-esports backlash?
For some drivers, it’s all too much. On Tuesday morning, Formula E star Antonio Felix da Costa told Twitter He was done with Twitch StreamingA feeling that was repeated and then erased by Laurens Vanthoor, one of Porsche’s professional racing drivers.
While these esport sim racers may just be a game for some, racers are professional athletes under contract to large organizations. And if you’re paid to represent a big brand, it has consequences for it looking bad. Unsporting behavior, smoking weed and even speaking politically will get you into hot water in professional sports, and although Abbot was not required by Audi to play rFactor 2, he still represented the organization –that bears his family name, nothing less-on Saturday. At a time when Twitch streams are bringing many racing stars closer to their fans, it seems a shame that drivers of the caliber da Costa and Vanthoor are withdrawing because of someone else’s mistake.