Ironman, the organiser of high-profile long-distance events owned by China’s Wanda Sports Group, will launch a virtual racing series to fill the void left by its postponed events due to the coronavirus pandemic.
The Ironman Virtual Racing Series and the Ironman VR Pro Challenge will debut on 4 April through the Ironman Now page on Facebook Watch, the social media giant’s video service.
The series will be offered through Ironman Virtual Club, a soon-to-be launched web-based platform “allowing athletes to train and compete from anywhere around the world at any time through the Ironman VR Series of weekly races and challenges.”
Under the format, athletes will compete in the traditional age-group categories and for select virtual races, and will have the opportunity to earn qualifying slots to the 2020 Ironman 70.3 (half-Ironman) World Championship in Taupo, New Zealand, scheduled to take place on 28 and 29 November. Virtual races will begin on Fridays and close Sundays with the first competitive race, Ironman VR1, debuting on 3 April. The Ironman Virtual Club platform will utilize connected devices and be compatible with most wearable technology and app trackers. Upon completion of a race, athletes will receive a finisher package including the collectible Ironman VR medal.During each weekend of competition, there will also be a women’s and men’s Ironman VR Pro Challenge, in which two professional female athletes and two professional male athletes will compete on separate days for prize money.
All events will be free to view globally on Facebook Watch. The coverage will also follow the competing age-group athletes through user-generated content shared on the platform, allowing athletes to see how they match up against fellow competitors through live look-ins and leader board updates. Additionally, the Ironman VR ‘Rolldown Show’ will provide highlights and an interactive live awarding of the 2020 Ironman 70.3 World Championship qualifying slots. Andrew Messick, president and chief executive of Ironman, said: “We believe that under extraordinary circumstances such as these, athletes should be able to maintain the structure and continuity that training and competition provides. The Ironman Virtual Club is an innovative digital platform that enables our athletes to continue training with purpose, remain connected to our community and provides an opportunity to compete through the Ironman VR Series.”
The launch of the virtual competition follows the trend of other leagues and series, as Spanish soccer’s LaLiga staged a virtual tournament this past weekend contested by its clubs on FIFA 20, the video game published by EA Sports, while Formula 1 rolled out its own F1 Esports Virtual Grand Prix series to run in place of its postponed races, and involve current drivers, until at least the end of May.Nascar also recently created a new esports competition, the eNascar iRacing Pro Invitational, to keep fans engaged in the US stock car racing series while its season is suspended until at least the beginning of May.