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27 May, 2020 16:28

'I can’t get any lower': Disgraced racing driver BEGS for forgiveness after being SACKED for sending pro ringer to esports contest

'I can’t get any lower': Disgraced racing driver BEGS for forgiveness after being SACKED for sending pro ringer to esports contest

Formula E ace Daniel Abt has pleaded for another chance after being dismissed and fined by Audi for turning his camera off and letting an 18-year-old gaming whizz take his place at a virtual race, claiming a prank had gone wrong.

Viewers became suspicious when German racer Abt turned his video camera off during an interview and appeared to obscure the face of his driver during the virtual Race From Home event around a reconstruction of the former Berlin-Tempelhof airport, where Formula E held its first-ever event in Germany in 2015.

After admitting that 18-year-old professional gamer Lorenz Hoerzing had helped him to third place, Abt was disqualified, forced to pay a fine of almost $11,000 to charity and sacked by his bosses at Audi, he revealed in an emotional video apology to his team, fans and fellow drivers.

"I can understand that we went too far with this idea,” said the 27-year-old, appearing to be on the brink of tears as he confessed to “calling in outside help”.

“We made a huge mistake. When we were practicing for this Race at Home Challenge on a Twitch stream we had a conversation and the idea came up that it would be a funny move if a sim racer basically drove for me to show the other real drivers what he is capable of.

"It was never my intention to let another driver drive for me to get a result and keep quiet about it later on just to make me look better. The other drivers reacted to it of course and realized that there was something odd. I was aware of that.

"It had never been my will or idea to keep this secret from them. We even texted in WhatsApp groups and I gave some hints. I'm aware that my offense has left a bitter aftertaste but it was never meant in bad faith. We wanted to document it and create a funny story for the fans with it."

Abt’s confession provoked a wild range of responses from racing fans, many of whom were angered by his actions. “I don’t see how you can be trusted not to cheat in real racing,” wrote one, while another added: “Everyone except his family who still supports him hasn't understood the situation.”

Others made jokes about the scandal around driving trips during quarantine currently engulfing UK politics and called for greater leniency. “Hope everything gets sorted,” said one well-wisher. “This whole thing is a ridiculous over-reaction.”

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A fellow supporter asked: “Would Liverpool sack a player for him not playing [football game] FIFA? No. This is just jumped to the extreme from Audi.”

When one viewer suggested the misdemeanor was a “victimless crime”, another hit back: “The guy shows blatant disregard for the official competition, sponsors and fans. And that's after numerous other pro drivers lost their seat after sim racing incidents.

"The cars may not be real but the racing and emotions most definitely are.”

The emotions of Abt – a former champion of the German ADAC Formel Masters competition – were clear. “Shortly after the race, I realized myself that it did not end there and it suddenly went in a direction which I had not ever been able to even imagine in my dreams,” he admitted.

“I definitely need some time for myself now to reflect about things and think about my future. I can’t get any lower. I’m on the ground but I’ll get up again.

"I will come back. I would, of course, be extremely happy if you accepted my apology and supported me on my journey in the future again.”

Abt has been a professional driver for 12 years, spending the last four with the Audi Sport ABT Schaeffler team.

He is currently 17th in the real life Formula E after five races of the season and was seeking his first win since the 2017/18 campaign.

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