Who would’ve thought, some couple of years ago, that SimRacing accelerates as fast as it does right know. High-end products, elaborate and highly specialized hardware and almost no limit for the future development. Various great companies started with their ideas and shaped our sport with huge impact.
Our chairman Manuel is perfectly connected within the scene of SimRacing and to the outside. He observes, analyzes and politicizes the development of SimRacing and contributed to it through various projects in the past. Beside driving, Manuel is responsible for Rennsport Online’s media appearance, sponsoring, cooperation and internal organization. In our format Rennsport Blogline we care about contemporary developments which strongly influence our sport or at least have the potential to. We try to express our thoughts from our teams perspective and might share some honest emotions between some analytical facts! Today, we give some insights into the perfect setup of your simulator to unleash your full potential! Later, we introduce to you a really nice piece of cockpit and review some of the most important features and characteristics.
Manuel is one of the chairmen of Team Rennsport Online
It may be assumed that the professional competition in SimRacing heated up dramatically over the last couple of months. More and more companies, sponsors, money and interest are joining SimRacing and lastingly change our sport. The competition increases further and one field of development might be the hardware side of SimRacing. It’s a myth that the best SimRacers of the world win championships with a G25 clamped to their desk. Well, exceptions might confirm the rule. But in general it’s logical that better hardware offers a higher potential to unlock performance, if talent and dedication are exceptional! Let’s have a detailed look on some of the most uncomprising hardware developments and how they might boost your SimRacing performance!
The Cockpit – Comfort for Performance
Yes, no SimRacing on the highest level without pedals and wheel. But, it might be interjected that one of the most underrated components in SimRacing is the cockpit itself. More precisely the seating position, endurance comfort and robustness towards all the strong forces which are at work in a Pro-simulator are key performance factors.
A perfectly adjusted seating position influences many aspects of SimRacing:
The more comfortable you are in your cockpit, the more immersive you feel in your car. It positively affects your confidence and ultimately also influences how untiring your drive can be.
The stiffer and robust your cockpit is, the faster you can control the inputs through your steering and pedal work. This might affect precision of your driving positively and also allows you to magically react to emergency situations.
All the angles and distances (s. infobox), especially with your arms and legs, highly affect how consistent you can apply your break pressure and how precise and intuitive you can control your steering inputs.
Thus, your own individually comfortable seating position should be the ultimate criteria to build your simulator. At least, if you want to reach out for a bit more than just driving, if you want to train and develop as a driver, you want to benefit from Hermann Ebbinghaus’ spacing effect. Thus, the more of your environment can be a constant, the better you can work on your driving.
Screen and Mounting – connect with your virtual World
Secondly, and right after conceptualizing your seating position, you should care about your monitor(s). We won’t comment on the triple screen vs. curved single-screen vs. VR discussions here, as this is highly dependent on your hardware and personal preferences. In general: the more and better you can see, the better you can react to specific situations, track characteristics and precision. Reaction time, refresh rate and size of your monitor as well as distance to your eyes matter most! Of course the distance to your screen must feel comfortable for your eyes at the first place. SimRacing costs a lot of concentration and you should really care about your eyes’ fatigue. However, the closer your screen is, the more you see, the more immersive you might feel and ultimately this boosts precision and feels!
The Pedals – Break wins
Your breaking wins you races, it is said. The more precise you can be on your break, the faster you are. Thus, your pedals should feature a so called load-cell if you want to professionalize your racing. There are some gamers around in the scene which impressively bring those pedals to perfection, but it might be concluded that this is no simulation of driving anymore. A professional set of pedals might need an investment of around 1.000€ these days and there are various manufacturers around to choose from.
The key-knowledge here is: with your pedal work on the break you want to trigger the so called muscle-brain-memory. Easy said, your brain can memorize the muscle power and action needs better, than remembering distances. If you pick-up 1 liter of milk but surprisingly the carton is empty you might uplift the carton with way to much power than needed. That feeling refers to your muscle-brain-memory, because your brain remembers how heavy 1 liter of milk is and adapts the application of needed muscle power. In this example, you tricked your memory, because you should never ever put an emtpy carton of milk into your fridge – Lando knows best!
However, a load-cell or hydraulic breaking systems allows you to simulate more resistance (up to 140kg) and thus you can perfectly train your brain, how much muscle power is needed to decelerate your respective car. Ultimately, this contributes to a better feeling of your car and allows you to unleash all your potential as a SimRacer.
Always remember: the ultimate goal when adjusting your seating position shall be maximum controll and minimum fatigue.
How to adjust your seating right:
Your back perfectly lies flat in your seat’s back. Your tailbone always touches the back of the seat. This position must feel comfortable and you shouldn’t hump your back at any time. Your shoulders are touching the seat back.
Holding your steering wheel straight should cost near to no effort. Your elbow might have an angle of around 80-100° when holding your wheel, but this is no rule. You achieve this mostly, by adjusting the height of your wheel to be roughly at your wrist joint.
This adjustment allows you to turn your steering wheel over ca. 110° of steering angle in both directions with your hands fully on. This might give you maximum control about your steering inputs and also enables you to feel your front tires better through the wheels force feedback.
All relevant (=frequently used) buttons, knobs, shifters, e.g. shall be reachable with near to no effort.
Your feet slightly touch your pedals when sitting in your cockpit. The pedal inputs shall be triggered through your ankles mostly. Yet, your legs shall feel unencumbred to switch between throttle, break and clutch pedal. When pedals are pressed 100%, your legs should be slightly bended at your knees.
The pedal heights shall be properly adjusted so that heel-toe as well as maximum break pressure with your left leg are enabled.
The Motor – Fire up your SimRacing
When it comes down to performance, you might not get around a dircet drive system. With these devices, your wheel is directly coupled with the motor shaft, without any gears or belts. Typically, DD-systems use a large industrial motor up to 30nm! The most prevalent systems come with their own software, such as SimSteering or True Drive. One must highlight at this point, that these systems are no toy anymore and have to be treated with care and dedication, as they can cause serious injuries. However, the sheer power, effect range and precision of these systems cannot be reached by any other concept and thus, will accelerate your performance, because again: the better the feeling for your car, the faster you can be. If purchasing a DD-system you will have to learn how to setup the motor with the software. Inertia, dampening and friction are the most influencing variables to do so and in general, tuning these is a whole new science on its own. Your goal shall be, to find a perfect balance between maximum force of the wheel and highlighting the details of the broad variety of feedback effects. Of course, the maximum power shall be adjusted to your physical strength but you might experience more precise effects if you increase the overall power. Try to finetune the effects after you found your perfect power range.
The Wheel – Quality and Precision
The best motor will be useless, if you don’t have a suitable wheel. Here, the market is flooded with great wheels and countless manufacturers. There even is a niche market for replica wheels, handcrafted and individualized. You can spend anything if you want but probably the majority of the wheels might cost you around 800 to 1.200€. Which wheel you would like is completely up to you. In general, the diameter of your wheel influences how quick you can turn your wheel and how precise your inputs might be. The smaller (and lighter) the wheel, the quicker you can react but the larger your wheel is, the more precise your steering can be – this relates to the leverage.
Additionally, the form or your wheel is an important variable of your wheel: wether you prefer a GT-style wheel or a formula wheel is again up to you. A formula wheel is a quick, precise and very stiff controller but it might be more difficult to retain control over your wheel in extreme situations. The grip of your wheel is another important detail: the material of the wheel and how this combines with your hands or gloves matters. Furthermore, the positioning, type and usability of knobs, buttons and shifters are variables to positively influence the comfort and control about your driving.
Recapitulatory, it can be said that the quality of your simulator shall be of your highest interest, if you want to professionalize your racing. How immersive your cockpit is, decides how much of your potential you might be able to unlock. Another aspect, we haven’t mentioned yet, is the stiffness of your cockpit: If you use a DD-system and a load-cell or hydraulic break system, you will work with very strong forces. Thus, you won’t get around pruchasing or buying a respective cockpit. In the following, we will introduce to you a beautiful simulator and highlight some of the decribed aspects.
Testdrive – Gentlemen, start your Engines!
This absolute beauty has just been finished and might be a very nice example for an inexorable SimRacing simulator. It’s heart is the brand new Sim-Lab P1X chassis. With it’s black aluminium profiles, it doesn’t only look good, but also provides a rock solid Sim-Lab-typical robustness. One of the main goals of this simulator-project was to create a “semi GT” seating position. Built for endurance races mainly, this increases comfort but at the same time ensures direct and strong control over wheel and pedals. Furthermore, it creates a more immersive feeling. The OMP ARS2 is a fibreglas bucket seat which adds to the main goal, as it is a very comfortable seat (and also has a good sweat absorption capability). After testing the seat with great support by @RacingFuel.biz it was the perfect choice for this project. The screen mounting system is also a Sim-Lab invention and offers a perfect adjustability to install the BenQ XR 3501 widescreen with a slight overhang, to adapt to the leaned back seating position. The screen is consequently mounted right behind the wheel (and in front of the DD-system) and allows a perfectly immersive field of view (for a single screen setup).
The pedals are old but gold – The Heusinkveld Pro are modified with different rubbers and perfectly adjusted. Their position is a bit elevated to allow maximum comfort and perfect reachability from the half-recumbent seating position. They are slightly declined to support maximum break pressure. Right to the driver one button box is mounted as well as a second screen for on-track information, communication and telemetry software. For an increased immersion, a butt-kicker is also mounted to the cockpit which also amplifies some specific effects and shakes the driver on bumps, curbs or locking wheels. After learning to recognize the different feedback effects, this also enhances the feeling for the car and enables for more car control.
The absolute eyecatcher of this simulator might be the beautiful direct drive system. The motor is the all-new SimuCube 2 Pro system with the True Drive software from Granite Devices. The SimuCube 2 might be one of the best DD-systems on the market right now and allows perfect precision and force feedback. The 25nm motor runs smooth and strong and delivers the best possible feedback! Attached to the SimuCube 2 is the Cube Controls CSX2 formula wheel. The wheel has just been released but has been thoroughly tested over the last couple of months. The wheel is 28,2 cm in diameter and features elastomer molded grips. Loads of buttons, knobs, rotary encoders and switches even allow to drive a highly developed LMP1 prototype with comfort. Magnetic shifters and a double-clutch system round off what is a brilliant wheel and maybe the best SimRacing wheel you can have at the moment. The built-in dash comes with its own software with which every single colour, position, size, information and animation can be programmed and individualized – just incredible!
Review – Behind the Wheel
I wanted to build a simulator, without the tiniest movement: stiff, strong, comfortable – but still good looking. Here, I could of course count on our long-term partner and friend Richard. The (very heavy) freight arrived within a few days and even if I’d consider myself as only average good with my hands, the built-up was quite simple. It took me around one day to mount the P1X cockpit but I was spending a lot of time to adjust distances, angles and seating position percisely and thus, this might not be a true reference for the build-up time you’d need.
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The mounting of the SimuCube and the CSX2 were super easy and the Sim-Lab front mounting bracket set allows great angles for adjustments so that my half-leaned back seating position suits perfectly. The True Drive software to tune the SimuCube was a whole new science, but the user-friendly GUI helped a lot. I learned about all the different variables via YouTube and later tested them myself to fine-tune the feeling of the car. After a couple of months of driving this wheel, I now have several different setups for the different cars I drive in iRacing. The smoothness of the wheel is fantastic and all the different feedback effects are amazing: I never loved to lock my tires under braking so much – even if I shouldn’t 😉 In combination with the shakes from my butt-kicker a whole new feeling of the car unfolds and I just love to race my simulator.
My brand new Cube Controls CSX2 is nothing but the best wheel I have ever driven – and I have driven a lot! Personally, I love driving a formula style wheel as I also prefer to race with prototypes in iRacing. To have the dash built-in and even be able to setup every single colour, position and information on screen is just a brilliant solution. Through its rock-solid carbon fibre and aluminium construction it is 100% cabable to handle the strong power of the SimuCube and perfectly holds in my hands. I love that I can reach out to so many buttons and sophisticated functions without losing my hold. This wheel is simply amazing – and so gorgeous!
After driving this simulator a while now, I can conclude that I am perfectly happy with every single detail. The comfortable seating position allows me to merge with my cockpit. The immersion is overwhelming, car control is as intuitive as never before and I might even reach a higher level of precision and performance. But one thing beyond all technical discussions: I have the most of joy in this beautiful simulator. Who would’ve thought that I’ll end here, what started with a Thrustmaster Ferrari Challenge-Wheel, clamped to the desk 15 years ago? Did I say ‘end’? At least until I have more ideas and little projects…because developing and tuning your simulator is an important part of the game simulation 😉