The Opinionated Guide on Racing Simulation
/ 7 min read
I’m in 🇨🇦 Canada and source all my parts from here. Your sim racing gear situation may look different based on your location.
|Force feedback: the forces pushing against your hands when you drive
|The rotation mechanism that the steering wheel attaches to
|The stand that the wheelbase, pedals, and sometimes seat, are mounted to
|A reinforced metal cockpit that can withstand great forces from FFB or user input
|A brake modification that mimics the resistance applied to real brake pedals
|A high-quality established sim racing brand notorious for being inaccessible to Canadians :(
|A FFB mechanism using multiple gears to establish torque
|A FFB mechanism employing a belt to establish torque
|A FFB mechanism where the motor directly controls the wheel
|A traditional arcade-style game that can get beginners up and running in 10 minutes. Ex: Gran Turismo, Forza Horizon, The Crew
|An intense simulation environment that requires a novice understanding of cars and their mechanics, racing rules, and physics. Ex: rFactor 2, Assetto Corsa (Competizione), Automobilista
Here are some price ranges assuming you already have a PC/Console:
- $100-200: Get a used wheel and pedal set (no shifter)
- $200-300 Get an entry-level wheelset
- $400-600 Get a good entry-level wheelset
- $700-900 Get the above and a racing cockpit
- $1000-1200 Get the above and a shifter
- $1300-1500 Get the above and a VR headset
- $2000-2500 Get the above and a faster PC or 80/20 rig
- $3000+ Get the above, except get a direct drive wheel and load cell pedals
Anything above $2K is beyond the scope of this post since I wouldn’t know what I’m talking about. I’m not well versed in 80/20 rigs, monster PCs, iRacing memberships, $10K motion rigs, etc.
When Should You Buy?
The current price of racing sim components is almost always going down, and cutting-edge tech is always around the corner. If you’re waiting for the perfect setup, you won’t get it. Get what you think you’ll need for now, and upgrade when you need/want to.
Choosing your components
Do your research
Read this entire Wiki on Sim Racing. Twice.
This should give you ideas on what to look for in components even if the recommended options are discontinued. I also recommend joining the subreddit discord server to get gear advice relative to your living/financial situation. It would be foolish of me to cover all this information under one umbrella.
Wheel and Pedals
Recall this line:
Get a good entry-level wheelset (there’s a difference)
The difference is the FFB mechanism. I’ve listed all three in the vocabulary as well.
- Gear driven: Better than no FFB
- Belt driven: Good
- Direct Drive (DD): The GOAT
In my opinion, the cheapest wheelbase to consider is the Thrustmaster T300 at ~$600, as it’s the highest-value belt-driven wheelbase and pedal combo you can buy as of 2023 (unless there’s a sale on something else).
I recommend getting an 80/20 rig if you have the budget. If not, view alternatives from the r/simracing Wiki. If you’re looking for something cheaper (<$300), you can pull it off with a no-name cockpit from Amazon as I did. I had to mod mine slightly because it wasn’t that sturdy, but the seat and wheel stand got the job done.
are crucial for sim racing (duh). You either have two displays in your eyes (VR), one monitor, or three monitors. Single monitor is good, but I don’t recommend triple monitors for the following reasons:
A triple monitor setup requires a triple monitor mount which sometimes costs as much as a fourth monitor
VR can be equally as intense on your GPU system as a triple-monitor setup. The only catch is motion sickened individuals have to gradually work up to playing for longer periods. The upside is it is the most immersive sim racing display for the lowest cost.
- It’s fun looking at the side mirrors instead of pressing
d-pad rightto rotate the in-game camera.
- It’s fun looking at the side mirrors instead of pressing
- Handbrake (normally used for drifting)
- Wheelbase display (for gauges and whatnot)
- Bumpers (the cheaper motion rig alternative)
This part isn’t too important, so long as everything is compatible, you can have a fun time. That being said, some sims are geared toward specific demographics.
|Online competitive racers
|Realistic simulation with modding capabilities
|Assetto Corsa Competizione
|Same as above except focused on GT (Gran Turismo) cars
|For rally racers
|For those with a Playstation (good luck)
|For those who think Forza is a good simulator
I’ve scratched the surface, but you get the idea. I’d lean towards Assetto Corsa as it’s pretty established (a fancy way of saying “frickin’ old”) so it’s easy to get started and ask for help where needed. It’s also regarded as one of the most realistic simulators.
On the r/simracing discord, there are also game-specific channels, which are great for discovering mods and learning about racing as a whole.
My Previous Rig
I spent a total of $300 on a Logitech G29 racing wheel, hooking it up to Project Cars 2 on my PS4. Nothing in that sentence felt good to write.
Logitech G29: The “entry” level one (emphasizing the double quotes)
- This is one of the highest-value combos that exist, but holy shit it sucks. Imagine driving in a straight line (which you do more often than expected while racing), but your car doesn’t respond to your input. That’s because the center of the G29 wheelbase has a dead zone which is common with gear-based FFB systems.
- The setup is pretty simple!
- You can feel the bumps of the gears which reduces immersion immensely
- The compatible shifter isn’t as good as the TH8A
- The pedals aren’t terrible. In fact, they come with handy carpet spikes!
- Despite it being an entry-level wheelset, I consider this below entry-level for how subpar it is.
- Project Cars 2 was okay for its realistic AI race scenarios (replicating practice, qualifying, pit stops, etc.), but less so for anything else
- Assetto Corsa was pretty good. I had a lot of fun despite there being no mods. To be fair, I also didn’t know that AC had mods. As Bradley Cooper once said:
I was blind but now I see
- A table. Just my office chair and a table.
- I had to move my keyboard and mouse out of the way, slide my monitor down, unmount and mount my G29 to the right position, move the pedals in front of my feet (deploying the carpet spikes), and increase my chair height. Don’t skimp.
🤑 I sold that hunk of junk for a profit.
My Current Setup
My flexible budget was $2000 and I ended up spending $2250. I know many people spend this amount on just the PC, but for me, I found deals and shopped used/refurbished where possible to ensure a high-value/quality setup for maximum enjoyment.
The Rig: $750
I bought this as a used bundle which included a:
- Generic Amazon aluminum GT cockpit with a seat and shifter attachment
- Thrustmaster T300RS GT Edition (Wheel & Pedals)
- Thrustmaster TH8A Gearbox H-Shifter Addon
- Generic Handbrake
The PC: $1079
The Games: $17.12
I got the humble bundle deal which included seven games:
- Assetto Corsa Ultimate Edition
- Assetto Corsa Competizione
- Automobilista 2
- NASCAR Heat 5 Ultimate Edition
- rFactor 2
The Display: $400
It’s a used HP Reverb G2 which I chose for its high resolution and low(ish) price. My other options were:
- Oculus Quest 2: Too low of resolution with an “interesting” pairing process
- HTC Vive: Higher quality but too high of a price
I hope this guide helped answer any questions about getting started. If I missed anything, leave a comment as I’m pretty new to all of this myself 😊