LONDON (Reuters) – Audi suspended German Formula E driver Daniel Abt with immediate effect on Tuesday after he cheated in an official esports race by getting a professional gamer to take his place.

FILE PHOTO: Motor Racing – Formula E – Berlin E-Prix – Flughafen Tempelhof, Berlin, Germany – May 19, 2018 Audi Sport Abt Schaeffler’s Daniel Abt celebrates winning the race REUTERS/Fabian Bimmer/File Photo

Abt issued an apology on Sunday for the deception in Saturday’s fifth round of Formula E’s virtual ‘Race at Home Challenge’.

The 27-year-old, who was disqualified and ordered to pay 10,000 euros ($10,956) to a charity of his choice, could now lose his race seat in the real world.

“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,” said Audi in a statement.

“For this reason, Audi Sport has decided to suspend Daniel Abt with immediate effect.”

The real-life all-electric Formula E season is currently suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Abt, a real-life race winner, had finished third on the virtual Berlin Tempelhof layout but rivals expressed doubts at the time about who was actually racing.

Mercedes driver Stoffel Vandoorne had made clear on his Twitch stream during the race that he felt something was amiss, and tried to call Abt on his mobile without success.

The esports series features all of the regular Formula E drivers competing from their homes and usually visible in their simulators on Zoom, but Abt’s face was hidden.

Organisers can check the IP addresses of competitors to ensure they are who they purport to be, with pro gamer Lorenz Hoerzing revealed to be Abt’s ‘ringer’.

He was disqualified from all future rounds of the separate Challenge Grid competition.

“I did not take it as seriously as I should have,” Abt said on Sunday. “I am aware that my offence has a bitter aftertaste but it was never meant with any bad intention.”

Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge and Pritha Sarkar

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