Basic or high-end equipment?

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Basic or high-end equipment?

Just as a racing driver needs a tailor-made cockpit, suitable hardware is also required in sim racing in order to be able to compete at the highest level. A check with racing drivers and sim racers shows that the most expensive equipment does not necessarily guarantee the fastest lap time.

A “Widescreen MOnitor” with high transmission rate ensures good picture.

Sim rig, force feedback, direct drive or widescreen: Anyone who is a little more intensively involved with sim racing can relate to such terms. They represent some of the hardware components with which virtual races can be contested at the highest level. Essentially, upscale equipment consists of a solid and stable metal frame into which a racing seat is integrated – the so-called Sim Rig. Such a rig usually also includes a screen, preferably a high-resolution one. A steering wheel with a corresponding motor and pedals are also mandatory.

Virtual Challenge

Equipped in this way, BMW works driver Philipp Eng, among others, regularly competes in virtual BMW racing cars such as the BMW M8 GTE in the IMSA iRacing Pro Series or the BMW Z4 GT3 in the Digital Nurburgring Endurance Series. And with success: a few weeks ago he got it “iRacing 24h Nurburgring” and thus celebrated the greatest success of his sim racing career to date.

It all started when he was 17, when he converted his desk at home into a racing simulator. “I pushed the exercise books aside, clamped my steering wheel to the desk, fixed the pedals to the floor – and off we went”, remembers Eng. Today his demands have increased. “From my point of view, it is important to have a stable rig that does not wobble. It is also important to me that the seating position is as close as possible to reality in the racing car”, says Eng. “But the most important thing for me is a good steering wheel motor. For me, the steering wheel is the only connection to the road in a static simulator. This feedback is the only way I can feel how the car is moving, and not my whole body like in reality. The so-called Direct Drive helps me with this, in which the virtual steering column leads directly into the steering motor, just like in a real racing car. This results in a much more direct reaction of the steering wheel.”

Rig and pedals are crucial

Real experts in virtual racing are the top sim racers Laurin Heinrich and Alexander Vob, who won the virtual 24-hour race on the Nordschleife together with Eng. Voss says on the subject of hardware: “In my opinion, a good rig and good pedals are more than half the battle for top equipment.” His direct-drive steering wheel is still his own product, because when he started using it six or seven years ago, this technology wasn’t yet commercially available. On this point, Heinrich took a slightly different path. “I don’t have a self-made steering wheel but recently bought a new Direct Drive model. I use a DTM-style steering wheel because it’s the best for me.”

Like Eng, both sim racers have a 49-inch widescreen monitor with 144 Hertz. “A monitor with a fast response time makes a huge difference, because it conveys a very real sense of speed and is easy on the eyes”, explains Henry. Closely supplemented: “This high image transmission rate is enormously important so that I can see movements that I feel on the steering wheel on the screen without any delay.” The system with three screens, which is also often used in the scene and offers an even larger field of vision, is not considered absolutely necessary by Eng, because: “I don’t look through the side window in a real racing car either.”

What equipment is needed to keep up with the best?

In general, one question arises when it comes to hardware for sim racing: What equipment is needed to be able to keep up with the best? And: the racing simulator with all the accessories has to cost a five-digit amount?

Basic or high-end equipment?-equipment

professional “rigid” with racing seat.

One man who shows that there is another way is Walkenhorst Motorsport driver Christian Krognes. He has only been doing sim racing intensively for a few weeks and competes in the DNLS (Digital Nurburgring Endurance Series) in the BMW Z4 GT3. Although his gear is more reminiscent of what Eng used in his early days when he was 17, Krognes is setting impressive lap times on the virtual Nordschleife and fighting for top spots. “I’m basically sitting at a normal table on a normal chair. During the day I do my normal professional home office at the table, in the evening I clamp my steering wheel and drive for a few hours”, explains Krognes. Its pedals are mounted on a box under the table, there is no metal sim rig that fixes the entire construction. This sometimes causes problems. “If I brake too hard, it can sometimes happen that I slide backwards with the chair”, says Krognes. He’s now thinking about building a simple rig himself.

At what point does high-end equipment make sense??

How can it be that Krognes can keep up in such a strong racing series as the DNLS despite relatively simple equipment? “More expensive does not equal faster”, says Eng. “There are also many pro sim racers who don’t have such high-quality equipment and still drive me in the face.” Voss also confirms this: “You are not automatically half a second faster just because you invest several thousand euros in a good simulator. You get used to everything – even very simple equipment. Habit plays a very big role. Only when it comes to squeezing out the last few tenths of a second do I think it’s easier with good equipment. Above all, in my opinion, you can call up your performance more consistently with good pedals and a good steering wheel. It’s more intuitive.” Krognes also confirms this impression: “I don’t think I would be much faster with high quality equipment, but probably more consistent. A long-distance race can get a bit uncomfortable in a normal chair.”

So the good news for hobby racers is that you can get hardware with a manageable budget that makes you competitive in sim racing. It only makes sense to invest in high-end equipment if you spend many hours a day behind the wheel or if you want to find the last tenths of a second at the absolute top.

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