Paris (AFP)

Forced to fall back on esports, due to the lack of real car and motorcycle races due to the coronavirus pandemic, pilots are, however, caught up "for real" for their mishaps and other overflows in online competitions.

Last example dated last weekend. In the last lap of a virtual race, the Frenchman Simon Pagenaud, winner of the 2019 Indianapolis 500 Miles, thus "took out" the British Formula 1 driver Lando Norris who was racing towards victory. All this without harm to anyone but as part of a competition "Indycar iRacing Challenge" very followed on social networks.

"I had trained for 24 hours to negotiate the turns well" of the Indianapolis oval, on which he never raced in real life, then regretted Lando Norris, 20, on his twitch account, a platform sports on which he broadcasts his races. "And just because a guy gets a little nervous because a driver who does not do Indycar will win, he flanks everything on the ground. But that's how it is," he added, annoyed.

He received the support of his boss in F1. "This is not what you would expect from a champion," said American Zak Brown, who knows the Indycar well, where his McLaren cars are returning this year.

The Frenchman, who at 35 has no shortage of racing experience, then apologized, without taking things too seriously.

Lando Norris put a layer on ESPN: "We always expect people to behave professionally like pilots with experience. Even if it's virtual and that's what everyone as an excuse, it was still taken seriously by almost everyone. "

During the same race, the young American Santino Ferruci also caused an accident, without being as much criticized as the French on social networks. Perhaps because, despite his 21 years, he suffers from a reputation already quite damaged by several incidents on the real circuits.

- Racist insult -

Another American pilot, Kyle Larson, who runs in NASCAR, has just paid dearly for having forgotten that the border between the virtual and the real was not that tight.

During an esport race broadcast on social networks in mid-April, he released a racist insult. Contaminated, he admitted having no excuse but was suspended again by NASCAR and dismissed by his team. He must now take racism awareness courses before hoping to get behind the wheel of a real car.

Sports psychologist Eric Nihous draws a parallel between video games and the cruel tales for children of yesteryear. "They serve to externalize the aggressive impulses," he said during an interview with AFP.

"Virtual games can lead to slippages" that would not happen in "real" life, he said.

But this clinical and sports psychologist attached to the Creps of Antibes and Boulouris-St Raphaël recalls that pilots have also caused accidents "for real" and that video games can reveal "flaws" in the personality of top athletes level.

Things have so far been quieter in MotoGP.

The virtual competition organized by the promoters of the world championship makes it possible to await the return of the "real" races. It also very timely supports the marketing of the new video game "MotoGP 2020".

The Spanish Marc Marquez, untouchable on the circuits for several years, however, hardly shines there. During the last inline race, two young Spanish drivers who have not yet made their debut in the supreme category this year, Alex Marquez - Marc's young brother - and Iker Lecuona, even found themselves in several laps in head in front of much more experienced opponents.

Fabio Quartararo, the great French hope of MotoGP, does not seem to have forgotten that it is above all a game. He fell no less than six times during the last virtual race ... without getting hurt.

© 2020 AFP