Racing simulators have come a really long way since the days of retro 8-bit driving games. Modern simulators utilise accurate manufacturer models and laser-scanned tracks to recreate reality in 3D space.
The equipment you use to interact with the virtual world has evolved significantly too, from the early gaming controllers of the 1990s, to the sophisticated simulator set-ups of today, replete with force-feedback wheel bases, advanced pedals, and even complete race car-switch gear.These high-end pieces of equipment will cost you more than just a pretty penny, though you do not actually need deep pockets to start sim racing. Mass-market equipment pricing continues to fall, albeit very gradually, and the founders of Sim Racing Association of Singapore (SRAS) decided to take it upon themselves to educate the masses about this e-Sport!
The Most Realistic E-Sports?
Unlike other competitive virtual sports, sim racing is the only type of simulated reality game that actually builds transferable skill to its real-life counterpart. You can be a top-tier FIFA player, but that may not necessarily mean you’ll actually be any good in reality. You can argue that the same can be said for sim racing, though the driving basics you pick up from the virtual world can be used in reality too.
Mashing buttons on a controller on the other hand, will yield zilch for your actual pitch skills.
Not Just An Arcade Game
Developments in the various physics engines and the raw computing power of modern computers mean that simulators are much more than just glorified arcade racing games. When paired with the appropriate gear, these can be used as a vital training tool, used by even the most professional racing drivers.In fact, some real-life racing drivers actually found their way into competitive motorsport through sim racing. GTAcademy winner Jann Marbenborough is one such example, having competed under the Nismo umbrella in various categories after winning the e-sports competition. He even went on to win a race in GP3!
Can We Talk About The Space Itself?
A space like the one Sim Racing Association of Singapore has is your literal equivalent of a candy store if you are a sim racing fanatic. Mid-range wheels from mass market brands, such as Thrustmaster and Fanatec, are featured alongside over-the-top direct drive wheels from a smattering of specialist wheel manufacturers.
The pedals vary too. Each rig has a different type and brand of pedal, with more primitive load-cell (if you can call it that - most mass market pedals use pontiometer-based sensors that track position instead of load), to rigs with pneumatic or hydraulic brake pedals.But actually figuring out which setup works for you can be tricky. Unlike other gaming-related peripherals, there are a lot more variables involved in sim racing. Seating position, wheelsize, strength of force feedback - the list literally goes on and on.
With so many small, specialised firms churning out some truly compelling equipment options, and a fanbase with the pockets to splash on it, it can be overwhelming for the first timer to sort out a basic set-up.This is why such a space is invaluable. Opening up their facilities to the masses allow the SRAS chaps to expose the general public to, and educate them about, the hobby itself. It also gives them a good opportunity to try out the different wheel bases, pedal types and even screen and
If The Equipment Is Different, Do You Feel A Significant Variance Between The Set Ups?
Well, yes. Every sim-racing enthusiast would have set up their equipment to best match their wants/needs. I myself run a set of potentiometer-based pedals, in which I modified to simulate the brake feel of a racing kart with the help of an aftermarket progressive brake spring, and some trick software calibration. I instinctively know how much to push the pedal by to rapidly decelerate without locking up.
I was advised by the organisers to first sample a rig with a load-cell brake. These read force rather than pedal travel, to determine the braking loads the virtual car is subjected to. To slow down, you slam on the pedal with as much force as your leg allows you to, then modulate the pedal by finessing your brake foot to act as a sort of human ABS.Pneumatic and hydraulic brake pedals offer a more natural feel, which is what I ended up preferring.
Wheelbase and steering wheel differences will play a part in the overall experience too. Belt-driven, consumer-oriented wheels have less raw torque than Direct-Drive (DD) ones, allowing you to have a larger margin of error to work with. You can lose control or crash in 3D space, without feeling like the wheelbase wants to sever your wrists. On the flip side, these wheelbases have less ‘resolution’, or fine road detailing, than their more powerful, DD counterparts.
With the power cranked up, you'll learn to respect the heft, speed and raw torque of these wheels. Trust me, it feels like you're working out when driving these wheels.We spent most of our time on their designated drift rig, which came with a hydraulic brake pedal, a quality handbrake and a DD wheel. You’ll very quickly realise why sim racers/drifters use gloves when operating one of these - skin burns are very much something you have to put up with, as you catch the wheel to help transition the car in drift.
So, Where Do I Begin?
It is unlikely that you’d actually buy any of the set-ups featured in this article wholesale. Most people start with a basic gear-driven FFB wheel, before moving up to a belt-driven wheel. Some then transition to a full blown rig with a DD wheel.
If you’re just starting out, Logitech makes some fairly good gear-driven FFB wheels for the starter. Clamping it to your office desk will work initially, but as you progress, a wheelstand isn’t such a bad idea. Thrustmaster and Fanatec are the two other big players in mass-market sim-racing peripheral sphere, offering compelling wheel choices for those with a bit more cash to splash.You can also take a gander at the various internet chat groups or your choice of a local marketplace app to score some good deals to complete your sim-racing set up! If you need any more information, or are interested in renting out the space for an event, do feel free to hit the guys at SRAS up for more information!
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