Words and photos by Nick Lish – Vintage Motorsport
First, let me start with a few glaring questions:
Is this a one-stop guide for everything I need to know about racing simulators?
Unfortunately, no. There is really too much information to try and cover in one article (even a series would not be enough) and a lot of the information and experiences are very subjective.
That said, here is a fairly comprehensive guide that I came across and would probably be a good starting place – https://perfectsimracer.com/race-simulator-ultimate-guide-2016/
Will this give me a step-by-step guide on how to build and configure a racing simulator?
Again, no. Given that there are so many options out there, it is best to look at all of the options and see what could work best for you and your budget. As with buying a car, it is worth test driving a few options and doing a lot of research ahead of time. Then make a decision as to which route you would like to go.
That sounds like a lot of work. Can’t I just get something that can be set up and just ‘works’?
Absolutely. As with anything, money is the driving factor here. There are plenty of companies that will build out a simulator for you and give you everything you need to get going.
So, what’s the point of even writing this?
After telling a few people that we had a racing sim in the office, I started getting more and more questions about them. How much does it cost? Isn’t it just a game? What’s the use? Etc, etc. I thought it might be worth it to put together a brief primer for those interested in simulators who are wondering if there is any value besides the obvious fun factor.
Ready to launch the Shelby Cobra at Spa-Francorchamps (caption)
About two years ago I floated the idea of bringing my racing simulator into the office. You know… as a practice tool… strictly for research and professional business. The response was understandably leery at first. Having a ‘game’ around might lead to decreased productivity or workers comp claims for carpal tunnel syndrome. However, we quickly found that a few laps around our favorite circuits broke up the day a bit, and was not much of a distraction. Of course this led to some healthy competition as well.
Back in 2012 I was moving into a condo with something I had never experienced before… a basement. My immediate thought was — racing simulator! The racing sim market was a pinch of what it is today and yet I was still able to scrounge up a modest setup that didn’t break the bank. I did some research and found the Logitech G27 (no longer in production) would be a great setup — 3 pedals, H-pattern shifter, and only $203 from a retailer online. Next, I came across a company in the UK called Playseat (https://www.playseatstore.com/) which makes simulator seat/stand combos. Everything bolts to it, you can adjust for your size, and then get cracking. This set me back $371, but since I already had a Sony Playstation 3 and Gran Turismo 5 my setup was complete and I could fire it up.
Playing Gran Turismo was certainly more fun with a racing wheel, shifter, and a third pedal, but I hardly considered the experience something that resembled reality. Perhaps I was not experienced or knowledgeable enough to fine-tune the setup. As such, I played on and off for some time — often showing friends how to use it and seeing their eyes light up saying “this is just like an arcade game.”
A few years later I began seeing and hearing a lot more about racing simulators. The technology was progressing quickly (both with software and hardware) as the popularity began to skyrocket. A friend of mine suggested checking out iRacing (https://www.iracing.com/). It’s an online racing simulator that offers the opportunity to race against players all over the world on actual tracks that have been laser-scanned and created with one primary goal — to mimic reality. The cars used are also laser-scanned and go through a rigorous vetting process to ensure the physics closely match the physical race car. Outside of being in the actual car this was as close as I would get to the real thing.
On board Jim Clark’s Lotus approaching Spa’s infamous Eau Rouge corner (Photo: iRacing)
So that brings us to the present day. We have played around with the simulator from time to time, but there was definitely a feeling that we could do a little more to enhance the experience. I did a bit of research online and came across a company in Florida that is widely regarded as one of the best sources for racing simulator parts and knowledge – Ricmotech (https://www.ricmotech.com/). I dropped them a line letting them know what we were working on and I quickly heard back from the owner, Frank Rico. He said there were definitely some improvements that could be made to our current setup.
The first and most important modification he set us up with was the Race-Car-Feel Load Cell Conversion for our Logitech G27. Basically, it converts the system from braking based on pedal distance to braking based on pedal pressure. The conversion is straightforward and before long we were testing it out. It took about 5 minutes to get acclimated to it, but after that we loved the change. The braking was far more representative of a race car and lap times were dropping as a result of the consistent pedal feel. The difference that it made was incredible to us.
Next up was the Aftermarket Custom Wheel Mounting Adapter. This would be used so that we could mount a regular old race wheel to the simulator and hopefully increase the overall realism. We also installed the Adjustable Full-Size Shift Paddles to round out the entire experience. Again this process was very straightforward and took only a few minutes to maneuver. Wine Country Motorsports (https://winecountrymotorsports.com/) were kind enough to send us a MOMO Mod. 08 steering wheel and the finished product looked great. The increased size of the wheel felt much better than the original Logitech one and the fact that we can mount any wheel we want is a great feature.
In our next installment we explore another racing sim game and we have some exciting hardware upgrades thanks to our friends at Thrustmaster (www.thrustmaster.com)