Daniel Abt, the German racing driver who's become a fixture on the Formula E grid since the series' inception in 2014, has seemingly lost his drive with Audi Sport after a bizarre series of events during this weekend's Race at Home Challenge esports series.
During this weekend's race, where many of the real-world drivers took to rFactor 2 to compete in an event backed by Formula E's organisers, it became increasingly apparent that Abt had employed a ringer to drive in his place. Suspicions emerged when Abt became much more competitive than he had been in previous rounds, and were further roused by the Zoom feed purporting to show Abt having the driver obscured by various equipment. Some drivers took it in good humour, with Stoffel Vandoorne attempting to call Abt's mobile and receiving no reply.
A subsequent investigation using the associated IP address confirmed Abt had employed professional sim racer Lorenz Hoerzing. Abt was subsequently disqualified - as was Hoerzing from any future Race at Home Challenge events - and fined 10,000 EUR, although his bosses at Audi Sport have taken matters further.
"Daniel Abt did not drive his car in qualifying and the race at the fifth event of the Race at Home Challenge on May 23 himself, but let a professional Sim-Racer do so," reads the official statement from Audi (as reported by The Race). "He directly apologised for this on the following day and accepted the disqualification.
"Integrity, transparency and consistent compliance with applicable rules are top priorities for Audi - 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."
It's not the first time that a real-life racer has found themselves in trouble for their exploits in the virtual events that have arisen in motorsport's absence, with NASCAR's Kyle Larson fired from Chip Ganassi Racing after using a racial slur during an iRacing event.