Motor racing-Formula E virtual race ends in controversy

Jan 8 (Reuters) - Dutch SIM racer Bono Huis collected a $200,000 jackpot, the biggest prize in eSports racing history, after winning the first virtual race between drivers from the Formula E electric series and gamers in Las Vegas. The Saturday evening showdown at the resort's Venetian Hotel ended with a typical motor racing controversy and Huis declared winner only after rival gamer Olli Pahkala had already celebrated victory. The virtual 'eRace', which does not count towards the Formula E championship, took place at the CES consumer electronics Show and featured 20 race drivers and 10 gamers with matching equipment. All wore flame-proof race suits, despite competing in a virtual world, as if driving actual cars. The gamers, who compete online in virtual series such as iRacing and Formula Sim Racing, earned their places in a Road to Vegas challenge and were paired with the 10 Formula E teams. Pahkala had crossed the virtual finish line first but was later found to have gained an advantage through a software glitch that enabled him to use the sport's 'fanboost' feature for longer than permitted. Stewards handed the Finn a 12-second penalty after a post-race investigation, demoting him to third and behind Mahindra Racing's Swedish racer Felix Rosenqvist, the 2015 European F3 champion and best-placed Formula E driver. Huis, 21, also took an additional $25,000 for securing pole position in an event boasting a total prize pot of $1 million. Even the lowest finisher was guaranteed $20,000 -- almost as much as the total prize fund in the biggest online racing competition. The race start was also delayed, and distance reduced, after other problems while Brazilian racing driver Lucas di Grassi was unable to start when his simulator failed to work properly. "The first eRace in Las Vegas was a great success," said Formula E chief executive Alejandro Agag. "I think this can be the first in a big future for Formula E in eSports racing. We will continue to pursue new and innovative ways to improve our presence in this fast growing landscape." The eRace was also attended by Jean Todt, president of motor racing governing body the International Automobile Federation (FIA) that sanctions Formula E. Formula E will return to the United States for two races in New York in July. (Reporting by Alan Baldwin in London, editing by Toby Davis)