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Officer dead, driver fatally shot after ramming vehicle into barricade near the U.S. Capitol

A Capitol Police officer was killed Friday after a man rammed a car into two officers at a barricade outside the U.S. Capitol and then emerged wielding a knife. It was the second line-of-duty death this year for a department still struggling to heal from the Jan. 6 insurrection.

Video shows the driver of the crashed car emerging with a knife in his hand and starting to run at the pair of officers, Capitol Police Acting Chief Yogananda Pittman told reporters. The driver stabbed one of the officers, Pittman said. Authorities shot the suspect, who died at a hospital.

Two law enforcement officials told The Associated Press that the suspect stabbed one of the officers. The officials spoke to AP were not authorized to publicly discuss the pending investigation and spoke on condition of anonymity.

“I just ask that the public continue to keep U.S. Capitol Police and their families in your prayers,” Pittman said. “This has been an extremely difficult time for U.S. Capitol Police after the events of Jan. 6 and now the events that have occurred here today.”

Police identified the slain officer as William “Billy” Evans, an 18-year veteran who was a member of the department’s first responders unit.

Police identified the slain officer as William ‘Billy’ Evans, an 18-year veteran who was a member of the department’s first responders unit. (U.S. Capitol Police via AP)

Authorities said that there wasn’t an ongoing threat and that the attack did not appear to be related to terrorism, though the Capitol was put on lockdown as a precaution. There was also no immediate connection apparent between Friday’s crash and the Jan. 6 riot.

The crash and shooting happened at a security checkpoint near the Capitol typically used by senators and staff on weekdays, though most are away from the building during the current recess. The attack occurred about 100 yards (91 metres) from the entrance of the building on the Senate side of the Capitol. One witness, the Rev. Patrick Mahoney, said he was finishing a Good Friday service nearby when he suddenly heard three shots ring out.

It comes as the Washington region remains on edge nearly three months after a mob of armed insurrectionists loyal to former president Donald Trump stormed the Capitol as Congress was voting to certify Joe Biden’s presidential win.

Five people died in the Jan. 6 riot, including Capitol Police officer Brian Sicknick, who was among a badly outnumbered force trying to fight off insurrectionists seeking to overturn the election. Authorities installed a tall perimeter fence around the Capitol and for months restricted traffic along the roads closest to the building, but they had begun pulling back some of the emergency measures in recent weeks. Fencing that prevented vehicular traffic near that area was recently removed.

Law enforcement officials identified the slain suspect as 25-year-old Noah Green. Investigators were digging into the suspect’s background and examining whether he had a mental health history as they tried to discern a motive. They were working to obtain warrants to access his online accounts.

A car that crashed into a barrier on Capitol Hill is seen on Friday. (Alex Brandon/The Associated Press)

Pittman said the suspect did not appear to have been on the police’s radar. But the attack underscores that the building and campus — and the officers charged with protecting them — remain potential targets for violence.

Evans is the seventh Capitol Police member to die in the line of duty in the department’s history. Two officers, one from Capitol Police and another from Washington’s Metropolitan Police Department, died by suicide following the Jan. 6 attack.

Almost 140 Capitol Police officers were wounded then, including officers not issued helmets who sustained head injuries and one officer with cracked ribs, according to the officers’ union. It took hours for the National Guard to arrive, a delay that has driven months of finger-pointing between key decision-makers that day.

WATCH | ‘We will get through this,’ says Capitol police chief:

Yogananda Pittman, acting chief of the U.S. Capitol police, thanks the community for supporting them through an ‘extremely difficult and challenging year.’ 0:19

They were called upon soon afterward to secure the Capitol during Biden’s inauguration and faced another potential threat in early March linked to conspiracy theories falsely claiming Trump would retake the presidency.

“Today, once again, these heroes risked their lives to protect our Capitol and our Country, with the same extraordinary selflessness and spirit of service seen on January 6,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a statement. “On behalf of the entire House, we are profoundly grateful.”

The suspect had been taken to the hospital in critical condition. One of the officers who was injured was taken by police car to the hospital; the other was transported by emergency medical crews.

U.S. National Guard troops stand guard near the scene of the incident on Friday. (Patrick Semansky/The Associated Press)

The U.S. Capitol complex was placed on lockdown after the shooting and staff were told they could not enter or exit buildings. Video showed National Guard troops mobilizing near the area of the crash.

Video posted online showed a dark-coloured sedan crashed against a vehicle barrier and a police dog inspecting the vehicle. Law enforcement and paramedics could be seen caring for at least one unidentified individual.

U.S. President Joe Biden had just departed the White House for Camp David when the situation unfolded. As customary, he was traveling with a member of the National Security Council Staff who was expected to brief him.

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CBC | World News

Nvidia Accidentally Releases RTX 3060 Driver With No Mining Limiter

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Up until now, claims that miners had found a way around Nvidia’s Ethereum mining limitations on the RTX 3060 have been fake. That’s now changed after Nvidia inadvertently provided a beta driver capable of mining at full speed on the RTX 3060.

The driver in question was beta 470.05 and it’s already been yanked. With previous drivers, mining performance on the RTX 3060 was hitting about 28MH/s. With the 470.05 driver, the RTX 3060 is hitting 44-48MH/s. Whoops.

This news raises questions about the accuracy of the following tweet from Bryan Del Rizzo, Nvidia’s communications director:

These events don’t mean there isn’t some kind of secure handshake between the BIOS and the driver under normal circumstances, but clearly, that handshake can itself be modified or omitted by Nvidia in driver code without any kind of failure or problem. Hopefully, miners won’t be able to figure out how this driver bypasses the code lockout.

A specific BIOS version is rumored to be required to use the driver, but other reports have indicated this isn’t necessary. Nvidia has yanked access to the driver from its own portals, but it’s likely to pop up again in other places. Miners aren’t going to let this one go. Nvidia’s rate-limiting should still be of some value here, since not literally every miner will find out about this driver, but this release effectively undoes some of the work the company had previously done to limit mining on its GPUs.

Here’s the good news. If Nvidia releases a hypothetical RTX 3080 Ti with the same mining limits as the RTX 3060 (limits not shared by the vanilla RTX 3080), said card won’t be supported in the GeForce 470.05 beta driver. If Nvidia was going to make a mistake like this, it made it at the right time — namely, before it launches any refreshed cards with mining limits.

Limiting cryptocurrency mining on GPUs may or may not improve overall availability, but it’s one of the only options for manufacturers to plausibly deploy. Nvidia has the right idea with the RTX 3060, in our opinion, this mistake notwithstanding.

GPU Availability Is Not Improving

In other news, DigiTimes is reporting that Nvidia GPU availability is “unlikely to ease by the third quarter of this year.” This could still change as the year progresses, but it’s likely to be due to a change in demand rather than supply. TSMC and Samsung should have full visibility into their own yields and wafer starts for the various chips AMD and Nvidia need to ship. AMD isn’t mentioned in the DigiTimes story, but Team Red has been facing its own severe GPU shortages.

If yields and shipments can’t grow, demand will have to drop. The two most likely causes for such an event are the slow end to the pandemic and a loosening of restrictions as more people are vaccinated and the end of the current crypto-mining craze. We don’t know how demand for electronics will shift as people can go outside again. We do know that the crypto market will probably cool off eventually, but not when. If demand stays high and the market is undersupplied through the end of the year, it could be 2022 before pricing stabilizes.

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ExtremeTechGaming – ExtremeTech

NASCAR Driver Jimmie Johnson Tests Positive for Coronavirus

NASCAR Driver Jimmie Johnson Tests Positive for Coronavirus | Entertainment Tonight

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No charges in NASCAR noose incident involving Black driver Bubba Wallace

The noose found hanging in Bubba Wallace’s garage stall at Talladega Superspeedway had been there since at least last October, federal authorities said Tuesday in announcing there will be no charges filed in an incident that rocked NASCAR and its only full-time Black driver.

U.S. Attorney Jay Town and FBI Special Agent in Charge Johnnie Sharp Jr. said an investigation determined “although the noose is now known to have been in garage number 4 in 2019, nobody could have known Mr. Wallace would be assigned to garage number 4 last week.”

A crew member for Richard Petty Motorsports discovered the noose Sunday at the Alabama race track. NASCAR was alerted and contacted the FBI, which sent 15 agents to the track to investigate. They determined no federal crime was committed.

The statement said the garage stall was assigned to Wallace last week in advance of the race scheduled for Sunday but held Monday because of rain. Through video confirmed by NASCAR it was discovered the noose “was in that garage as early as October 2019.”

The agencies said the evidence did not support federal charges.

WATCH | Noose found in Wallace’s garage stall:

After successfully pushing to ban the Confederate flag from NASCAR races, Bubba Wallace’s team discovered a noose in his garage. As a federal investigation now commences, the circuit has rallied behind it’s only full-time Black driver. 2:32

Wallace successfully pushed the stock car series to ban the Confederate flag at its venues less than two weeks ago. There has been criticism of the ban by some longtime fans and security had been stepped up for Wallace, a 26-year-old Alabama native who has worn in the last month a shirt over his firesuit that read “I Can’t Breathe.” His paint scheme for a race in Virginia was Black Lives Matter.

NASCAR said in a statement that “the FBI report concludes, and photographic evidence confirms, that the garage door pull rope fashioned like a noose had been positioned there since as early as last fall. This was obviously well before the 43 team’s arrival and garage assignment.”

NASCAR said a check of every other stall in the garage showed the one for Wallace’s car was the only one in which the pull down rope had been fashioned into a noose.

‘A great conclusion for us’

NASCAR President Steve Phelps said the series is continuing its own investigation to determine why a noose had been in that garage stall at all. He added the finding that it wasn’t directed at Wallace was “a great conclusion for us” but was adamant NASCAR would have conducted its investigation the same way even now knowing it wasn’t a hate crime.

“We would have done the same investigation. It was important for us to do,” he said, stressing that Wallace’s race team had nothing to do with the incident.

“The evidence was very clear that the noose that was in the garage was in there previously. The last race we had in October, that noose was present. The evidence we had, it was clear we needed to look into this.”

WATCH | NASCAR shows solidarity with Bubba Wallace after noose incident:

The NASCAR circuit has rallied around Bubba Wallace, the only full-time Black driver who fought to ban the Confederate flag from races, after a noose was found in his garage. 2:11

The Wood Brothers Racing team said one of its employees informed the team he recalled “seeing a tied handle in the garage pull down rope from last fall,” when NASCAR raced at Talladega in October. The team said it immediately alerted NASCAR and assisted the investigation.

The discovery of the noose stunned the stock car series as it takes an active position in a push for inclusion while distancing itself from its rocky racial history. The series first tried to ban the Confederate flag five years ago but did nothing to enforce the order.

Wallace two weeks ago renewed the call for a ban and NASCAR answered, but it has yet to detail how it will stop the display. Talladega marked the first race since the coronavirus pandemic that fans were permitted — 5,000 were allowed to purchase tickets — and some upset with the flag ban paraded past the main entrance with the Southern symbol. A banner flew over the speedway Sunday of a Confederate flag that read “Defund NASCAR.”

WATCH Bubba Wallace displays #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme:

Bubba Wallace, the only African American in the NASCAR Cup Series, competes at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway with Black Lives Matter paint scheme on his vehicle.  1:08

NASCAR announced late Sunday the noose had been discovered and the industry rallied around Wallace. All 39 of his rival drivers and their crews helped push Wallace’s car to the front of pit road before the national anthem and stood behind him in solidarity.

Wallace was joined by his team owner, Hall of Famer Richard Petty, who gently placed a hand on Wallace’s shoulder as he sobbed. Wallace after the race went to the fencing along the grandstands and greeted supporters. Many were Black and wearing “I Can’t Breathe” shirts.

“It’s just been hectic, you know, carrying this weight,” he said. “I’m proud to stand where I’m at and carry a new face. Look at [these fans]. Is this the first time you’re here? From Atlanta? That is so cool! The sport is changing.”

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CBC | Sports News

Noose found in Black driver Bubba Wallace’s garage at Alabama NASCAR race

A noose was found in the garage stall of Black driver Bubba Wallace at the NASCAR race in Alabama on Sunday, less than two weeks after he successfully pushed the auto racing series to ban the Confederate flag at its tracks and facilities.

NASCAR announced the discovery late Sunday and said it had launched an immediate investigation. It said it will do everything possible to find who was responsible and “eliminate them from the sport.”

“We are angry and outraged, and cannot state strongly enough how seriously we take this heinous act,” the series said in a statement. “As we have stated unequivocally, there is no place for racism in NASCAR, and this act only strengthens our resolve to make the sport open and welcoming to all.”

On Twitter, Wallace said the “the despicable act of racism and hatred leaves me incredibly saddened and serves as a painful reminder of how much further we have to go as a society and ow persistent we must be in the fight against racism.”

“As my mother told me today, `They are just trying to scare you,”‘ he wrote. ” This will not break me, I will not give in nor will I back down. I will continue to proudly stand for what I believe in.

WATCH | Bubba Wallace displays #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme:

Bubba Wallace, the only African American in the NASCAR Cup Series, competes at Virginia’s Martinsville Speedway with Black Lives Matter paint scheme on his vehicle.  1:08

The noose was discovered on the same day NASCAR’s fledgling flag ban faced its biggest challenge. The ban took effect before last week’s race near Miami, but there were only about 1,000 military members admitted into that race. At Talladega, in the heart of the South, as many as 5,000 fans were allowed in, even though rain postponed the race until Monday.

There weren’t any immediate reports of how many, if any, flags were confiscated or taken down at the track. There were informal protests Saturday and Sunday alike, with cars and pickup trucks driving along nearby roads flying the flag and parading past the entrance to the superspeedway. A small plane flew overhead pulling a banner with the flag and the words “Defund NASCAR.”

NASCAR did not acknowledged the plane or its banner, though executive Steve O’Donnell tweeted a picture of black and white hands shaking: “You won’t see a photo of a jackass flying a flag over the track here…but you will see this…Hope EVERYONE enjoys the race today.” Rapper Ice Cube even tweeted about the plane saying, “(Expletive) him NASCAR, you got new fans in this household.”

Wallace, a 26-year-old Alabama native who drives the No. 43 for Richard Petty Motorsports, said he has found support among fellow drivers for his stance on the flag. He noted that after the noose announcement.

WATCH | NASCAR holds moment of silence in solidarity with racial injustice:

NASCAR’s only African American Cup Series driver, Bubba Wallace, and several crew members wore ‘I Can’t Breathe – Black Lives Matter’ t-shirts prior to the start of the race. 0:51

“Over the last several weeks, I have been overwhelmed by the support from people across the NASCAR industry including other drivers and tea members in the garage,” he said. “Together, our sport has made a commitment to driving real chance and championing a community that is accepting and welcoming of everyone.

“Nothing is more important and we will not be deterred by the reprehensible actions of those who seek to spread hate.”

Wallace’s 2013 victory in a Truck Series race was only the second in a NASCAR national series by an Black driver (Wendell Scott, 1963) and helped push him into the Cup Series, where he drives for Hall of Famer Richard Petty and is forced to scramble for sponsorship dollars.

NASCAR has spent years trying to distance itself from the Confederate flag, long a part of its moonshine-running roots from the its founding more than 70 years ago. Five years ago, former chairman Brian France tried to ban flying the flags at tracks, a proposal that was not enforced and was largely ignored.

LeBron James shows support

This year was different and it was Wallace who led the charge. Over the past month as the nation has been roiled by social unrest largely tied to the death of George Floyd, Wallace wore a black T-shirt with the words “I Can’t Breathe” at one race and had a #BlackLivesMatter paint scheme at another.

Wallace, whose father is white, was not always outspoken about racism; even after Floyd was killed last month while in police custody in Minneapolis, he was not the first driver to speak out for racial equality. He has said he began to find his public voice on racism after watching video in May of Ahmaud Arbery’s fatal shooting in Georgia. He said he now recognizes he must not let his platform as a prominent driver go to waste.

NBA star LeBron James tweeted his support to Wallace, calling the noose “sickening!”

” Know you don’t stand alone! I’m right here with you as well as every other athlete,” James wrote. “I just want to continue to say how proud I am of you for continuing to take a stand for change here in America and sports!”

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CBC | Sports News

Canadian esports driver Andrew Brooks tearing up the track online

Andrew Brooks could write a travelogue that would make a jet-setting socialite jealous.

Paris, Tokyo, New York, Sydney and Monaco — twice — are just some of the desirable locations Brooks has visited over the last two years. His travel history reads like a Formula One star’s itinerary, which is fitting as Brooks has earned his opportunities to criss-cross the globe through his prowess on the virtual racetrack.

Brooks is an ace driver in “Gran Turismo Sport,” a popular racing simulator on the PlayStation 4. The game’s best players duel online in the Gran Turismo Championship Series sanctioned by FIA, the same administrative body that governs Formula One. The cream of the virtual racing crop earn all-expenses-paid trips to show off their skills at live esports events around the world.

“Before that I only really travelled outside Canada once or twice in my life, so the best thing the game has offered thus far is just being able to see the world and meet new people,” Brooks, from Richmond Hill, Ont., said in a recent phone interview. “These are things that without ‘Gran Turismo’ and the series I would not have been able to practically do on my own, so I’m really grateful for that.”

For now, however, the COVID-19 global pandemic has put on hold any opportunities for Brooks to add to the growing collection of stamps in his passport. A live event scheduled for late May in Nurburgring, Germany was cancelled, and travel restrictions and limits on public gatherings worldwide make such events unlikely for the foreseeable future.

Still, online competition has been largely unaffected, and Brooks is off to a blistering start to the 2020 Championship Series. The 21-year-old currently leads the North American rankings in both the Nations Cup and Manufacturer Series circuits through the first nine rounds of competition.

In the Nations Cup, where drivers represent their country, Brooks has picked up six wins including both “superstars” races, which pit the top-16 drivers in the region against each other and are worth more points in the standings. In the Manufacturers Series, he has a win and a second-place finish in the superstar races while driving for Citroen.

WATCH | Fernando Alonso finishes 1st in virtual Indianapolis 500 race: 

Fernando Alonso claims virtual victory over a cast of Indy 500 winners, Formula One champions and 80-year-old U.S. great Mario Andretti. 2:18

While Brooks won’t be broadening his travel horizons soon, he said he likes competing from home. His driving rig is set up in his bedroom — “It’s not the most high-tech setup, but it gets the job done,” he said — and he is free from the distractions of live events, which can draw upwards of 500 fans.

“I think the most difficult part when they do have a live audience, is regardless of how hard you try to put yourself in the mindset where you’re very focused on the race, it’ll always be in the back of your head that there will be a lot of people watching when you make a mistake,” he said. “I find it more comforting to race at home just because there’s very few external factors. There’s a wheel that you’re used to, a chair that you’re used to, pedals that you’re used to.

“At the live events you’re dealing with a lot of new things, features that you’re not used to. I remember at an event in Las Vegas there were a lot of bright lights in the nightclub where it was hosted, so I would say it requires an adaptability to play in the live events compared to when you’re playing at home on your own.”

WATCH | BMW Indoor Invitational Royal Portrush closest to the pin contest: 

Aaron Cockerill of Stony Mountain, Man., came close, but it was South African Wilco Nienaber who won the nearest to the pin contest. 1:13

Brooks is still in regular contact with his teammates from Phoenix Seven Racing. The esports outfit has drivers from Canada, the United States and Peru among its ranks.

“We’re able to still communicate online on a daily basis, which is very helpful for practising the races together like we normally would,” Brooks said. “I would say it hasn’t affected us too much in the way we communicate, as we still get along and we still have the same synergy as we did before.

“That’s probably my favourite part of our team, that we’re friends first and teammates second.”

“We’re looking to be a big esports team in not just Gran Turismo, but sim racing in general,” he added.

Games in the “Gran Turismo” franchise, which debuted in 1997, let drivers get behind the wheel of a variety of powerful cars and take a spin on some of the world’s famed racetracks.

WATCH | TFC’s Delgado scores as his virtual self in esports win over Whitecaps: 

Toronto FC’s Marky Delgado virtually scores as himself in 3-0 victory over Erik Godoy of the Vancouver Whitecaps. 0:49

According to game developer Polyphony Digital, the series has sold 80.4 million units worldwide, so to rank among the best in the world takes dedication.

“The days leading up to superstar races I would practise three or four hours a day, maybe upwards of that if I’m struggling to get to grips with the race,” Brooks said. “On average I’d say two to three hours of practice a day. Some days are a little lighter, half an hour to an hour just to keep the feel.”

Brooks said the amount of work can be fatiguing.

“Especially if you’re struggling to find pace on a certain course, or you can’t reach the pace you’re striving to get, it can be very tedious. I find myself often having to take a break or go for a walk, or have a good workout or doing something listening to music.”

Still, the commitment to practising has paid off for Brooks, who is also a car enthusiast outside of the game.

“I love cars. I go to the Toronto Auto Show every year. I went to the Montreal Grand Prix last year with a few members of the team that were in the area. We ended up going there together and making it a big deal and it was a lot of fun,” he said.

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CBC | Sports News

Riot Games’ New Anti-Cheat System Runs at System Boot, Uses Kernel Driver

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Cheating is a scourge in multiplayer games. A single cheating player can ruin the fun of 10-20 other people in a competitive match, and while teams of pro gamers have repeatedly demonstrated they can smash cheaters in live play, most ordinary mortals don’t have much of a chance. Riot Games has every reason to work to keep cheaters out of Valorant, its new multiplayer team shooter, but how the company is doing it has raised security concerns.

While the anti-cheat client only launches alongside Valorant, there’s a kernel-mode anti-cheat driver that loads as soon as your operating system boots. According to Riot, this is required because some cheating software also injects kernel-mode drivers into the operating system, making it much harder for userspace applications to detect and stop them. In a blog post earlier this year, Riot wrote:

In the last few years, cheat developers have started to leverage vulnerabilities or corrupt Windows’ signing verification to run their applications (or portions of them) at the kernel level. The problem here arises from the fact that code executing in kernel-mode can hook the very system calls we would rely on to retrieve our data, modifying the results to appear legitimate in a way we might have difficulty detecting. We’ve even seen specialized hardware utilizing DMA to read and process system memory—a vector that, done perfectly, could be undetectable from user-mode.

Longtime tech enthusiasts are likely to get twitchy any time the phrase “kernel-mode driver” is uttered, and for good reason. The Sony rootkit fiasco of 2005 was a security disaster in which Sony BMG installed an actual rootkit on user PCs that was later exploited by additional malware.

Image from Riot’s blog.

Riot is aware that people are concerned about the security implication of this practice, but it argues the following (in condensed form):

  • If we wanted to steal data off your computer we could do it in a much easier way.
  • Cheaters are using cheats that rely on kernel-level drivers, so we need kernel-level anticheat software.
  • Riot’s anti-cheat team can’t spend as much time on this problem with multiple games to support.
  • Other anti-cheat services like EasyAntiCheat, Battleye and XignCode 3 use an anti-cheat kernel driver already.
  • It’s for your own good.

The company has affirmed that it does not send data back from individual PCs at any time other than when the game is running and that it limits its activities to cheat detection, not any other type of activity. Security experts are divided on whether or not this represents a flaw, with some taking the position that this is a fundamentally bad idea because it intrinsically increases the attack surface against the operating system, while Riot has emphasized its ability to quickly respond and its consultation with multiple expert security firms and code audits to make certain no bugs exist in the existing implementation.

The bottom line is that Riot is right — other anti-cheating systems also use kernel-mode drivers — but people still may not be comfortable granting that kind of access to any company. Malware and scam offers have surged during the pandemic and it wouldn’t be surprising to see black hats looking for new attack vectors to exploit.

Riot does not currently use this system in League of Legends but has explicitly stated it will do so at some point in the future. If you find the concept objectionable it might be best to plan to move to a different game.

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Virtual racing series has injured Canadian driver Robert Wickens back on the ‘road’

Canadian race car driver Robert Wickens is back behind the wheel, racing again against the same drivers that he used to race against every weekend on the IndyCar circuit.

Only now he’s doing it from the basement of his Indianapolis home.

The 31-year-old, left paralyzed in a devastating 2018 racing crash, is racing using a sophisticated simulator, navigating the twisting turns of the Barber Motorsports Park in Alabama.

It’s all part of IndyCar’s virtual iRacing series.

“It’s kind of a surreal experience, you know, for me, this is really step one to get back into the race car,” Wickens, originally from Guelph, Ont., told CBC Sports.

  • Jamie Strashin tells Robert Wickens’s story Friday night on The National, 9 p.m./10 p.m. ET

It was Wickens’s first taste of real competition since the crash at Pocono Speedway left him partially paralyzed and lucky to be alive. His goal has always been to race again.

When CBC Sports caught up with Wickens at his home last November, he was relearning how to walk, something doctors told him he would never do again.

WATCH | Robert Wickens and his fight to return to the cockpit:

Canadian Indy Car driver Robert Wickens survived a 300 km/h crash last year, but his life will never be the same.  8:12

The iRacing series is part of a grueling rehab process that continues to this day. Wickens said being in the simulator is like a real race, requiring the same physical stamina and laser focus he used on racing circuits around the world.

“If anyone who’s played a racing game at home or in an arcade, or if you’ve gone to one of those facilities where you can try a real racing simulator, going an hour without crashing on a simulator is very, very hard,” he said. “And it was just very rewarding to cross the finish line.”

Both before and after his accident, Wickens used a simulator to stay sharp but says it will take some getting used to operating under real race conditions.

“The feeling is so much more different. It’s a challenge,” Wickens said. “It’s going to take a lot of patience, a lot of perseverance. But luckily we’re not really in a race against the clock to get back into a race car. “

The iRacing technology being used for these races has been around for about 15 years and has more than a 100,000 users worldwide. Most enjoy racing from their homes and offices, using less sophisticated equipment than Wickens and other professional drivers.

But the company’s partnership with IndyCar and NASCAR and its ability to create a real life experience has captured the imagination of drivers and fans.

“There’s lots of games out there, but we do things a little different where we’re focused on truly being as authentic and as real as possible,” said Kevin Bobbitt, iRacing’s marketing director. “We laser scan our tracks so there’s millimetre accuracy — every crack, every bump, every curb that a driver would experience in the real world.”

As the coronovirus pandemic has grinded the sports world to a halt, many leagues have struggled to find a way to connect with and remain relevant to their fans. The NBA and MLB are trying video game tournaments among their respective sports’ biggest stars.

Bobbitt said car racing is unique because high-level success requires the same abilities drivers require during an actual professional race.

“What’s different is if you play NBA 2K or FIFA — and I love those games — but none of those skills translate. Using your thumbs to move a soccer ball around is nothing like playing real soccer,” Bobbitt said. “So while other sports will do some online tournaments, I don’t know that their athletes will be the best at it. I just don’t know. It’s a different skill set.”

So far fans have responded. More than 165,000 tuned in for a virtual race on April 4, about half of a usual Indy audience. NASCAR numbers have been even higher.

IndyCar CEO Mark Miles said he was initially skeptical about the idea and worried it wouldn’t translate well to television.

“It is really getting to a younger audience,” Miles said. “In my mind, it’s starkly different than what most broadcasters are having to do now, which is showing maybe cut-down old sport but not live.

“And it is so realistic. And then it’s particularly fun to see how competitive and excited the drivers are to have a chance to get out on track.”

For Wickens, it’s a chance to show that after all he’s been through, he can still go fast.

“I think my neurocognitive stuff is not what it was when I was in my prime of my career a couple of years ago,” he said. “But, you know, that’s the great thing with the human body, with some simple training, it can all come back.”

Wickens said this all just another stop on his comeback journey, one that he envisions ending on a real track, in a real car. And hopefully in the winner’s circle.

“I don’t want to come back as some kind of marketing campaign where I’m just driving around. I want to compete. That’s why I became a driver.”

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The sorrow and the savage: Leafs’ historic loss to Zamboni driver inspires range of emotional reactions

It’s rare that a regular season NHL game in mid February is guaranteed to be remembered until the end of time, but Saturday’s meeting between the Toronto Maple Leafs and visiting Carolina Hurricanes is most definitely one for the history books.

That’s because the former Zamboni driver for the Maple Leafs’ AHL team played net for the Hurricanes.

And he won.

For those just stumbling across this, here’s a brief game synopsis: Carolina’s starting goalie James Reimer left the game in the first period with an lower-body injury.

Petr Mrazek was summoned to fill in for the injured Reimer, and was humming along nicely until he was bowled over by Toronto’s Kyle Clifford, and was forced to leave the game in the second period with his team up 3-1.

NHL teams only (usually) dress two goaltenders, so that meant the emergency backup goalie, David Ayres, was called into action. The former Zamboni driver has been a practice goalie for the Leafs’ AHL affiliate Toronto Marlies for the past eight years, and also practices with the Leafs.

This was him in net during the Maple Leafs outdoor practice in front of city hall:

So he’s faced plenty of shots from pro players, but Saturday was the first time he’d been called into action in an NHL game.

Long story short, Ayres allowed two goals on the first two shots he faced, but he and his new team held on for a 6-3 win.

At 42, he became the oldest goaltender in league history to win in his NHL debut.

Naturally, all of this blew the mind of pretty much every hockey fan on social media, including those that knew him personally.

A couple of fellow NHL goaltenders also got in on the conversation.

And then there was Ayres’ wife, Sarah, who had to watch nervously from Scotiabank Arena alone after her husband ditched her to, you know, make his NHL debut and all that.

But in all of the excitement for Ayres success, there was also some extremely distressed Leafs fans who had to watch their beloved team muster just 8 shots in 30 minutes of play.

But hey, no matter what the Leafs players are feeling today, at least they’ll be able to discuss it with the guy who put them here in the first place.

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Phone App Unlocks Rental Car, Then Strands Driver in California Boondocks

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It was the perfect storm: A technology reporter rents a car-share Toyota hybrid that’s accessed and unlocked by the renter’s smartphone and an onboard modem. Rented in California, no less, which is ground zero for technology. Reporter and partner then drive into a remote coastal area, but still in California, hike to the beach, return, and the app won’t unlock the car. Reporter calls carshare company Gig Car Share on cellphone, carshare company says there’s not enough cell service to unlock or reset/resync the car.

The resolution was to send a physical tow truck to haul the Toyota back into cell reach that worked for the Toyota and the company. Except it’s apparently also harder to resync the car when it’s more than 50 miles from home, and there’s a cap on how many times the car be resynced or reset in a single day.

And you’re surprised there were problems with a smartphone vote-tally app in Iowa?

Everyone who’s been taken down by technology run amok can take to Twitter or Facebook and sound off. Kari Paul has the added advantage of being a West Coast reporter for The Guardian, and what British publication wouldn’t like a juicy story about how messed up things are in their former colonies under the reign of the emperor Trump, as they might see it. Read her story in full here in The Guardian online and note the tips jar at the bottom.

Basically, everything that could go wrong, did. Safeguards to keep the car from being absconded with also kept it from being set straight. And the car-share software didn’t take into account the very real odds that Californians would drive the car to scenic areas of the state where cell service remains spotty, even along the popular Highway 1.

In her story, Paul notes these issues:

  • The software that works so well in San Francisco-Oakland doesn’t work so well a couple hours away. Notwithstanding this is the most populous state in the US and with the most cellphones.
  • To offer customers the “best experience” (Gig’s words), cars are resynced automatically every 24 hours. Don’t resync the car and Gig can’t help you, even if the problem was the car was able to drive to an area with little or no cell service, as there’s no get-out-of-jail software key that lets you drive the car back into coverage range.
  • “… the car cannot be re-synced easily if it is more than 50 miles outside of the ‘HomeZone’, out of cell range, or if the vehicle is moving,” Paul writes. In other words: gotcha.
  • An engineer who didn’t want to be named told her, “It works great if you have a dependable cell connection.”
  • There’s the lunacy that Paul could make a cellphone call for help while standing next to her Prius, but the carshare company couldn’t send a reset code or any other packets that would turn the Prius back into a drivable vehicle.
  • Finally, Gig had the car towed back to her Airbnb, which had Wi-Fi, but “our wifi was useless in restarting the vehicle, which needed to be synced through the cellular network.”

Ultimately, Paul writes, “five hours, two tow trucks, and more than 20 phone calls to Gig’s customer service line later, we got the car to start again.”

In a final call to a Gig rep, Paul says she got this suggestion: “Can I give you one more piece of advice? Get the hell out of there – now.”

Postscript 1: Afterwards, Gig told Paul she could have ordered an RFID card that will start the car. Just do it two weeks before you take that spontaneous weekend trip.

Postscript 2: Paul writes, “A spokesman from AAA, which is the parent company of Gig, apologized by email for the experience [and said], ‘We are committed to improving our service and customer care, and will assess this situation for learnings.’”

Now read:

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