Simulation racing has transitioned from a niche eSport segment to one of the most popular forms of gaming in the last couple of years. This is mainly due to the influx of cutting-edge technologies that replicate the sensation of real-world racing.
However, most non-gaming audiences have little or no knowledge regarding sim racing gear, equipment, and games. So, if you’ve recently heard about simulation racing and pondered the question, “what is a sim racing system?,” you’re at the right place.
In this post, we’ll be sharing everything you need to know about simulation rigs, including factors to consider for your first purchase.
What Is a Simulation Racing System?
Simply put, a sim racing system or rig is a static replica of a race car – or at least that’s what it’s meant to be. It’s a basic structure equipped with different racing simulator hardware and accessories, such as a console or PC, steering wheel, shifter, hand brake, and pedals. The system is designed to simulate the feel of real-world racing in a safe, virtual environment.
It allows sim racers to amp up their experience and fully immerse themselves into different race tracks with real-world driving physics, traction, grip, and road conditions. Racers can also compete in esports tournaments, including the Porsche Tag Heuer Esports Super Cup on iRacing and 24 Hours of Le Mans Virtual on rFactor 2.
The Anatomy of a Sim Racing Rig
Before we dive deeper into the types of rigs, you need to understand the basic anatomy of a sim racing system and all the parts that comprise it. So, without further ado, let’s get right into it:
1. Cockpit (or Frame)
A cockpit is a structure that serves as the foundation of a sim racing system and holds every component (hardware, accessories, etc.) in place.
2. Gaming Platform (PC/Console)
Next, we have gaming platforms with their simulation software and racing games. You can opt for a gaming PC or stick with popular consoles like PS4, PS5, and the latest Xbox Series S/X.
A sim racing seat is an adjustable seat that offers several seating positions that allow drivers to feel like sitting in a real race car. You can also upgrade them according to the game you’re playing, such as F1, which requires a more reclined seating position.
4. Monitor or Display
The monitor essentially serves as your virtual windshield when racing in a simulated environment. It varies in size, quality, and quantity. For instance, you can opt for a 42” single monitor with a curved display or a triple monitor setup with a 90″ display size and 4K resolution.
Alternatively, you can opt for VR headsets as your primary visual cue.
Pedals are mounted at the base of the cockpit, just like in a car. These devices play a crucial role in sim racing both in terms of performance and feel. As a result, many companies offer advanced options with tactile feedback and hydraulic systems.
6. Steering Wheel
Like the gaming platform, pedals, and monitor, steering wheels are another essential component of a sim racing system and among the most difficult ones to choose. Opt for one with a direct drive motor for powerful and realistic feedback.
7. Shifters and Emergency Brakes
Although these aren’t mandatory options, they’re highly recommended for aspiring professional racers looking to take realism to the next level. Some shifters include an H-pattern or a sequential mechanism that lets drivers control their acceleration.
Types of Sim Racing Systems
Now that you’re well-versed with the different components that make up a simulation rig, let’s check out the four main types of sim racing systems you can find in the market:
1. Steering Wheel Stand
This is the simplest and cheapest type of sim racing rig. It simply features a framework that supports a steering wheel. You can place it in front of your gaming monitor or television.
These rigs are often smaller than their counterparts and don’t usually include foot pedals or seats. However, they make a great option for kids or console owners, starting with sim racing.
2. Full Cockpit
A full cockpit is the most common racing simulation system, featuring a full-frame setup that includes a steel or aluminum chassis, wheel mount and base, pedal mounts, and display racks. Higher-end options may also include seat and shifter mounts.
3. Monocoque Simulation Rigs
These are essentially full-frame rigs that take things to the next level by creating a shell or hub that mimics the feel of sitting inside an actual race car.
They’re significantly more expensive than other rigs in the market and are more aesthetically pleasing to look at compared to their skeleton-like counterparts.
4. Complete Rigs
These are complete sim racing systems that have already been equipped with every essential component from the monitor to the gaming platform, simulation software, wheels, pedals, etc.
The biggest benefit these rigs offer is that they take the legwork involved in procuring, building, tuning, and troubleshooting custom rigs.
4 Things to Consider When Buying a Sim Racing System
If you’re intrigued by the concept of sim racing and looking to get on board the bandwagon, here are four things to consider when buying your first rig apart from the price and dimensions:
1. PC or Console?
Before you buy a rig, you need to consider which gaming platform is more convenient for you – PC or console? Consoles, such as PS4, PS5, and Xbox, are more space and user-friendly. PCs offer unlimited customization and better compatibility.
If you’re unsure, you should opt for modular rigs that allow users to swap components.
2. Software (Games)
Choosing between a console or PC will impact more than the graphics and real-world physics. It will also determine which games you can play. Therefore, you need to determine which games you’re interested in playing and whether they’re compatible with your platform.
For instance, Assetto Corsa Competizione, iRacing, and rFactor 2 are incredibly popular among PC gamers, whereas F1 2021, Dirt Rally 2.0, and Gran Turismo Sport are the go-to choices for console gamers.
3. Hardware Compatibility
PS5 controllers don’t work on Xbox. In the same way, many sim racing components aren’t one-size-fits-all. Therefore, whether it’s the pedals, steering wheel, or monitor, you must ensure each component is compatible with your rig. You can also check the mounting blueprints of popular gear brands to get an idea.
4. Materials and Product Quality
The materials you opt for in every aspect of your rig can make a huge difference to your performance and overall experience. For instance, you can opt for cheap plastic wheels or spend more on carbon steering wheels with paddle shifters.
Similarly, you can opt for spring-based steel pedals or switch to titanium ones with advanced hydraulics. You don’t have to stop there. You can improve every component from your monitor to seat, platform, and frame.
We hope you now have the answer to the question, “What is a sim racing system?” With this information, you have the foundation needed to kickstart your sim racing journey, from researching different rigs and components online to assembly.
Simulation racing is rapidly becoming one of the most popular esports worldwide, so if you’re looking to get on board, now is the time!