Car driving sims have been around for decades, for everything from gaming to training ambulance drivers. And although most people associate them with entertainment, they’ve been instrumental in many efforts to improve and assess the performance of drivers around the world.
For a long time, pro racing simulators have been struggling to find the right balance between realism and practicality. In recent years, however, technological developments have allowed for some truly outstanding things. In this article, you’ll find everything you need to know to get started with race car sims.
The Importance of The Right Equipment
Before getting into it, it’s important to underscore just how crucial high-quality equipment is to the racecar sim experience. Using substandard steering wheels, pedals, or cockpits indeed diminishes the feeling of simulating a racecar.
To get a good idea of what to look for, try to find a high-end pro racing simulator you can try. These can often be found at arcades, or sometimes at certain events. The difference between pro racing simulators and their cheap counterparts is like chalk and cheese.
A Steering Wheel With Dynamic Feedback
The steering wheel may not be the first thing you consider when thinking about racing sims, but it’s one of the essential elements. In a real-world situation, the steering wheel is what provides the most kinaesthetic feedback. If turning the wheel doesn’t feel right, the whole experience is botched.
Steering wheels with no force feedback aren’t recommended. They’re not worth the money and don’t make a simulation any better than a joystick. Having said that, there are two types of wheels to choose from.
- Belt-drive feedback racing wheels. These racing wheels are an excellent place to start if you’re building an in-home setup. Some of these are excellent and provide strong force feedback, but some more basic models provide very little. It goes without saying that the more you play, the better the feedback will be. The high-end models are in the £400 to £800 range.
- Direct-drive feedback racing wheels. Rather than use a belt to transfer power from the motor to the steering wheel, this type of racing wheel is mounted directly on the motor’s shaft. This provides much more accurate feedback and is as close as you can get to a real driving experience. They can cost several thousands of pounds but may present some compatibility issues with certain games.
Pedals and gear shifters are usually sold in combination with the racing wheel, but they can be bought separately as well. If you’re buying them separately, make sure you take note of the compatibility. It would be a shame to pay for high-end pedals only to find out that they can’t be used with your wheel.
Additionally, some setups can include a handbrake as well. Circuit racing will never require a handbrake but for drifting simulations, it’s an elegant addition.
A Sturdy Rig
For anyone looking to have a realistic experience, there’s no substitute for a cockpit. The cheaper option is to simply get a wheelstand, which just offers you a place to mount your racing wheel and pedals. But that probably won’t quite do for pro racing simulators.
The downside to a cockpit, or rig, is that it takes up a lot more space. If space is the limiting factor, a wheelstand can be used in a pinch, but it simply doesn’t compare to a full rig. The benefits extend past just the comfort they provide.
A high-quality rig will put you in a seated position that more closely resembles what you would feel in a real-world situation. Racing simulators used to train actual professionals always use a full cockpit.
The Big Choice – PC or Console
The last – but certainly not least important – choice to make is whether to use a PC or a console. The real difference between these two is in the choice of simulation games. PC has access to more and different titles than consoles do. Some of the top professional racing titles are PC-exclusive.
Other than that, the choice won’t affect the overall experience too much. If you’re not too concerned with the number of titles available, a console will do just fine.
Race Like a Pro
Racing simulators are meant to give you a realistic driving experience, but above all should be a fun experience. With that in mind, choose your accessories to have the most fun setup you can afford.
If you’re looking for that true-to-life driving experience, consider buying or renting a full professional setup. Good luck on the tracks!