Q: Can you recommend a driving simulator setup?

Q: “You are a big proponent of simulators. I have a sim seat at home and use it to learn tracks, but my seat, wheels, and pedals just don’t feel right for learning habits. Can you recommend a sim setup (as in actual parts) that will work for most people? I think it is the biggest barrier to entry since there are so many options.”

A: I’m not an expert on the best sim hardware (or software), but I’ll take a stab at answering this.

What’s most challenging is that the best setup depends on the budget you have and what you’re trying to achieve with it. Personally, the feel from a simulator is not super-important to me because I use mine more for training the mental game. If I was looking to set the fastest lap times, win sim races, or learn how to drive a specific car, then I think the sim setup would become more important (although I know a couple of world-class sim racers who have simple setups that provide almost no feel feedback).

In issue #173 of Speed Secrets Weekly (past issues available at http://speedsecretsweekly.com/products-page) had an article by Ryan Selsor (he’s a serious sim racer) about hardware and software choices. I also had him and another sim racer, Glenn Magee, on my podcast, so listen to both of those episodes at Podcast.SpeedSecrets.com, number 14 and 24.

I feel that having a good frame/chassis to mount your steering wheel and pedals on is as important as anything. I use a Playseat chassis (https://www.playseatamerica.com), and I’ve not seen one better for the price. Of course, you can step up to the multi-thousand-dollar chassis, but that’s a whole other story. Check out Crimson Simulation (https://crimsonsimulation.com) for options in that range.

The Fanatec (https://www.fanatec.com/us-en/) and Thrustmaster (http://www.thrustmaster.com/en_US) steering wheel and pedals are good cost-effective systems (the former probably a little better than that latter). Both of these provide a distance- or position-sensitive brake pedal, meaning that the further you push it, the more brake application you’re providing. Obviously, that’s not how a real car is, as it’s pressure-sensitive. And that’s why many drivers struggle with the feel of braking on a sim. You can simulate some of the real feel by adding a cone-shaped rubber stopper in behind the brake pedal so that it gets increasingly harder to push the further you go with it. If you Google that, you’ll find a few recommendations.

A better option is to purchase a pressure-sensitive brake pedal, such as the one by Perfect Pedal (http://perfectpedal.com). Many drivers swear by these. At the same time, the next step up is a better quality force feedback steering wheel assembly, but you’re talking a few thousand dollars for this alone.

Setting a budget, and understanding how far you want to go with a sim rig is a challenge. It’s no different from setting a budget for preparing a real car. You usually start off with modest goals and plans, and then get sucked into spending more and more and more…

In racing there’s a saying, “How fast do you want to go? How much do you have to spend?” Sim rigs are no different, but it’s more “How realistic do you want it to feel? How much are you willing to spend?”


  1. In your recent podcast with Colin Braun, he brought up the ability to move in small increments up the tenths scale, versus drivers like me who can only go from 9/10 to 11/10, without stripping to see what 10/10 feels like. Can you recommend any exercises to develop this higher resolution feel?

    • Tobey – You could spend decades of driving at or near the limits, like Colin has! But you can also do what Colin did early on in his career (and still kinda does on a regular basis), and that’s the Sensory Input Sessions I’ve written and talked about extensively. It’s the difference between practicing in a random way (just getting seat time), and being very deliberate about the way you practice. That will develop the skill you’re looking for in less time. Can I guarantee it’ll be as fine-tuned as Colin’s is? No. But it will help.

  2. Hello Mr. Bentley,

    I’m struggling to decide which route to take to progress my desire for racing. I’m close to getting my SCCA license, but also want to get more practice in before I move to formula F or Formula Lites. Should i invest in a Kart or stick with Sim racing for the time being?

    Thank you for everything you do,

    Nick J

    • Nick – There are so many variables to consider when answering your question… with budget being the biggest one. If you’ve been sim racing for a while, if possible switching to karting would be good, because it’ll teach you different things. And the physical workout from a kart is valuable.


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