Motorsports, even of the virtual variety, costs a pretty penny in Singapore. But the founder of S5 Technology aims to change that, bringing smart solutions to make sim racing more affordable locally!
Why aren’t more Singaporeans getting into motorsport, both in reality and in the virtual world? Cost is probably a major factor, but so is the overall lack of recognition and visibility as compared to other sports. Can increased visibility help make racing more popular?
Let’s answer these questions in this instalment of our ITPS series!
What first attracted you to sim racing?
Cars are a lifelong passion for me - anything with wheels and speed piques my interest! E-racing offers a taster of performance driving and a window into the world of racing, albeit in the virtual world. You don’t feel all the sensations as you would in a real racing car, but the basic simulation is present.
Tell us about the founding of your company!
I wanted to get into the world of simulators myself, but found the lack of reliable information online a huge stumbling block. Factoring in the presence of high-end simulator equipment, it can seem daunting to start, and if you buy the wrong items, it can prove to be difficult and really expensive. The virtual racing arm of my business was created to save others from the same hassle.We are fortunate enough to have the resources to buy and try out hardware from many different brands, doing our own testing and research to figure out what the best piece of equipment was! What doesn’t pass our rigorous standards will then be sold on.
Was it hard to get the first clients through the door?
Like all start-ups, it was tough to get clients initially. But we didn't think of that as a negative - rather, it gave us the opportunity and time to explore and test new products and software. We also had the luxury of having the capacity to develop quality-feeling components but with low cost materials and methods!
Let’s touch a bit more on the testing process. How does that work in S5 Technology?
To be clear, we buy a lot of the testing hardware with our own funds. There's really no other choice, as there isn't a place you can go to rigourously test sim racing hardware. We don't really trust online reviews, as you may not know the actual intent behind the article/video.It may even be sponsored! It is through this process that our vendors and us have come up with many in-house and products that are sturdy, yet undercut some of the mainstream offerings! S5 Technology is also a way to share the knowledge and experience that we've accrued, making the e-sport more accessible to the community! We've actually resold a lot of the equipment that has failed to meet our grade at a loss!
You’ve built many high-end rigs over the years. What sets you apart from your rivals?
We do not necessarily pitch to the end client the most expensive e-racing equipment. Rather, my team would assess their current driving ability and have them buy what complements their existing skill level. Many wealthy clients have walked through our doors, expecting us to recommend to them a big dollar sim rig configuration, only for them to be stunned when we suggest they start with a more mass-market setup first.This gives them enough time to test and grow with the equipment, which is the only way you can flatten the learning curve and actually make sim racing enjoyable! It’s all about the customer service and the sincerity - this is why many of our customers have since become friends!
What is the most outlandish build you’ve done so far?
It’s probably a little sensitive to delve into the build on a public platform! Let’s just say it was a configuration that is well into the five digits. The direct-drive wheelbase is bolted to a bespoke motion rig, with other gadgets providing plenty of haptic feedback, as well as various sound and display optimisations.(Editor's Note: The rig pictured is not the 'outlandish build' described in this chunk of text!)
Ultimately though, the tuning is what ties the entire setup together, and I cannot stress that enough. Our goal at S5 is to build fully-turnkey setups (no individual configuration of all the separate components), so this rig actually took me more than a month to tune and refine for the client!
You’ve built an accurate E36 rig. Walk us through the system, and what went on behind the build!
I chose an E36 dashboard because I like cars from that era. The BMW 3-er of that timeframe has an edgy character to it. They are driver centric and raw, with a sporty flavour. There’s also a pleasing circularity to this, as I drove a race-prepared E36 around the Nordschleife, and have always wanted an accurate recreation of the E36 experience.It wasn’t easy though. These cars are getting old, and parts in good nick are hard to come by. Breakers yards know this, which is why each individual component is sold separately. Up to as many as 10 E36s donated parts to my rig. I far exceeded my initial budget to complete the build!And I still didn’t have a complete rig, just a bunch of E36 parts.Borrowing a friend’s E36 for measurements, I fabricated mounts for all the parts, and then programmed Arduinos and wired all the electronics so that the setup works in the literal push of a button. Even the radio works! It’s about 80% complete - I just need to find the time to make an adapter for the original BMW steering wheel and the shift knob!
We understand you’ve just purchased a racing kart. What would your ultimate goal be with that?
The intent was never to actually compete in it. It’s really just a way for us to allow our clients to experience some real-life race kart driving. Arranging such a track day with race karts can prove bothersome, especially if you’re renting out karts from the various tracks!Using our own kart streamlines that process. We’ll also personally ensure that all the hassle and bother is settled before the actual day itself, so there’s basically no barriers of entry (apart from track fees obviously!). Plus, it’s always good to bring together a group of like-minded people!
Do you truly believe that sim racing will be a viable avenue into real racing in the not-too-distant future?
Yes, but do temper your expectations of what it can offer. Current sim rigs are unable to replicate G-forces, or loud noises/vibrations. It excels as a tool for learning tracks, and also to build the basic foundations for performance driving (like throttle and brake control).That being said, there are many professional sim racers that have transitioned into real life racing. GT Academy winner Jann Mardenborough is a good example, even winning a real-life GP3 race! As simulators continue to develop, it is only logical that there will be many more drivers going from sim to reality, especially overseas!
Finally, what advice would you give someone that is just starting out in the world of sim racing?
Try out the equipment you want to buy before actually buying it. We cannot stress this enough. Find a friend that has it or even drop by our office! There’s no point splashing out the cash and buying a really expensive rig and wheel combo if your skill level doesn’t match!
You’ll be frustrated both driving and also configuring your setup, and will not enjoy the experience!
Start with an affordable setup - improvements are all about seat time! Some of the fastest sim-racers use very basic setups! You can definitely gain some benefit in a more robust rig when your skills are a little more mature, and when the time comes, make sure your setup is properly tuned and calibrated!Interested in trying out a quality sim setup? Or just looking for some sound advice about what equipment you should purchase? Hit S5 up via their website here, or via their Facebook or Instagram pages!
*Editor's Note: Portions of the interview have been edited for clarity.
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