He Placed in a Virtual Race. But His Racing Was Too Virtual.

He Placed in a Virtual Race. But His Racing Was Too Virtual.


Daniel Abt might be a successful driver on the Formula E circuit, the racecar series normally using electric cars, but he had not been so good at the virtual races that are substituting for the real thing during the coronavirus pandemic. In the first four races, he had failed to score a point.

But in Race 5 on Saturday, in a virtual Berlin, he seemed to put the pieces together, racing to third place. There was only one problem.

Abt wasn’t behind the wheel.

After the race, Abt was disqualified for “sporting misconduct.” In a statement, he owned up to using “outside help.”

“I would like to apologize to Formula E, all of the fans, my team and my fellow drivers for having called in outside help during the race on Saturday,” Abt said. “I did not take it as seriously as I should have.”

The man behind the virtual wheel appears to have been Lorenz Hoerzing, a pro gamer. Immediately after the announcement about Abt’s penalty, the league announced that Hoerzing had been suspended from a separate competition that he had been racing in, again for “sporting misconduct.”

Several of Abt’s fellow racers had spoken up with suspicions about his surprisingly good performance. “Really not happy here, because that was not Daniel driving the car himself, and he messed up everything. Really ridiculous,” Stoffel Vandoorne said on Twitch after the race.

Like other racing series, Formula E has started a series of virtual races featuring its drivers. Before it resumed real racing, NASCAR did the same, leading to unwanted notoriety when one driver, Kyle Larson, was caught using a racial slur on the broadcast. He was fired from his team.

Thomas Waerner of Norway won the Iditarod sled dog race on March 18. Two months later, he and his 16 dogs are still stuck in Alaska.

Waerner has been unable to get a flight back home because of cancellations and coronavirus-related restrictions, The Anchorage Daily News reported. “I like Alaska a lot,” Waerner told the newspaper. “It’s kind of my dream place. But I have a family.”

Now Waerner has found a novel way to get back to Norway, he hopes.

An air cargo company is sending a vintage DC-6 from the 1950s from Fairbanks, Alaska, to an air museum in Sola, Norway. And Waerner and his sled dogs will be hitching a ride.

The plane is from an earlier era of air travel, and the flight will be, too. It will stop in Yellowknife, Canada; Baffin Island, and possibly Reykjavik, Iceland, before arriving in Norway, reported Teknisk Ukeblad, a Norwegian engineering magazine.

Concern over spreading the coronavirus caused the cricket authorities to decide that when the sport returned, spitballs would be banned. The decision drew favorable reviews, with many fans and players, who found the idea of a spit-covered ball unappetizing, suggesting that it was overdue and should be made permanent.

The bowler changes every six balls in cricket, and a single ball is kept in the game for an extended time. So even when covered in spittle, the ball is passed around among several players, hardly appropriate in the age of Covid-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. Or any other time, really.

But the spitball may not be dead yet, a top cricket executive said.

“This is only an interim measure, and as long as we have hopefully control over Covid-19 in a few months or a year’s time, then I think things will go back to as normal as it can be,” Anil Kumble, a former star player now on the International Cricket Council, told Star Sports.

So in due course, bowlers will apparently once again be allowed to befuddle batsmen by soaking the cricket ball with expectorant. Yuck.

Mark your calendars, several new sports reopenings have been scheduled.

Japan will join Taiwan and South Korea and restart its baseball league on June 19, without spectators. The West Indies cricket team will play in England beginning July 8 as Test matches resume.

The return of Lionel Messi, Eden Hazard and Toni Kroos is now expected on June 11 as La Liga returns in Spain. In France, which has given up on the 2019-20 season, a new season in the top league will start on Aug. 23, pending approval from U.E.F.A. And no league seems to be too small to take a shot at coming back. Germany, which already started its first- and second-tier leagues, will relaunch the third tier this weekend.



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