Ecoracing.co is set to be a major new fundraising tool for cash-strapped charities, school PTAs and community groups during the Coronavirus pandemic.

With the introduction of social distancing guidelines to limit COVID-19 contagion, all physical charity fundraising events are being cancelled.

The Ecoracing.co virtual balloon race system, developed by Purepages Group in Manchester, is a fun seven-day computer simulation race where everything is real except the balloon.

Uniquely, the software uses current live weather data and has no negative environmental impact on birds, animals, climate change, plastic waste or litter.

All the virtual balloons can be decorated with colours, patterns and text plus tracked 24/7 on Google Maps and satellites once the race is launched.

Other functionality allows balloon flight parameters such as helium content, rubber thickness and shape to be altered to suit the predicted weather conditions of the race, thus enhancing chances of winning.

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Tom Garner, headteacher at Fairhaven Primary, a Silver Award eco-school in Stourbridge, regularly uses Ecoracing events to boost school coffers depleted from recent staff pay rises.

After the Christmas Race launched, he said: “About 75% of our children attended to watch - they were so excited! The sales rocketed this week which was great - all the publicity I did worked.

“We had parents buying on their phones outside the gates this morning! There is a real buzz about school.”

The British Red Cross have also indicated that they are rolling out the platform to all their regional branches. Max Newton, Fundraising Manager (North) for the charity, said: "I think a virtual balloon race is a wonderful thing to do while we're all in lockdown.

“People and communities can both come together virtually and - via their balloons - can travel the world virtually.

“Ecoracing run a fantastic platform that anyone can pick up and go with within a few minutes and raise money for their cause. I think it could really take off."