Investing in a quality driving simulator is becoming increasingly important these days as they have become critical for driver development. With that in mind, I thought it would be a great opportunity to ask someone with experience in simulators to write up some general tips to look for when deciding to purchase or upgrade a professional driving simulator and I am pleased that Dan Wells accepted the challenge. I originally interviewed Dan in 2019 and have followed his informative posts on driving simulators since then. As Dan specializes in advising on, installing and maintaining professional driving simulators, he is the perfect person for the job. You can find out more about Dan and the full range of services he offers on his Motorsport Prospects Directory listing here. As you can see, he offers a lot more than just professional simulator advice.
Racing simulators have always been popular with professional drivers and racing fans alike, but the travel restrictions, lockdowns and shutdowns thrust them into the spotlight in a way that has never been seen before. While other sports struggled to gain viewers and entertain their fans, motorsport was lucky in that our sport can be replicated to a high standard using racing simulators where anyone is able to race against competition all over the world. We were treated to F1 hosted events, iRacing Indy 500 special events, and of course all the pro and sim drivers alike setting up and joining their own hosted events.
This sudden explosion in popularity led to a severe shortage of hardware as everyone was trying to get their hands on the latest equipment to enjoy their newly enforced lengthened homestays. Before the Covid-19 crisis I had already been involved in simulators – firstly with my trusty Logitech G27 back in 2008 when I got into the sport through sims, and then when I did my due-diligence to find the best simulator for a client in 2019. Once lockdowns kicked off, and my real-world racing came to a halt due to being in Asia where travel restrictions are currently the strictest they’ve ever been, I diverted to providing a service of simulator setup, installation, maintenance, and online coaching. I’m going to share some of the essentials you should look at when it comes to investing in a quality racing simulator for your home.
Know what your goal is
I see a lot of people who get taken in by pretty marketing efforts, spend either a lot or not very much money, and end up disappointed and they stop using their sim after a short while. If you are looking to have a simulator for driver training use, you are going to have a particular set of requirements – many of which you might not be aware of. If you are just looking at something for the kids to have fun on, the same applies. So, knowing what purpose you are getting the sim for is the first step. After all, there’s nothing worse than seeing someone get a brand-new sim and then be dejected or disinterested after a short while because they got the wrong one!
Ask for advice from existing sim owners
Thinking that you want to get an expensive sim with movement, and then realizing it comes with standard Heuskinveld’s and Simucube, or even Fanatec after the event… Or perhaps getting the sim and then later realizing you have no technical support in your country – there would be not much worse! So, ask your friends or family who have a sim. What have they found to be useful, what would they have done differently – the idea of having a full moving platform for example might sound cool, but when you realize the maintenance, lack of sustaining G-Force, cost and possible motion sickness – perhaps it might not be the right thing for you. Speaking to a trusted friend about their experience will assist you in making the right decision for your investment.
Know what you want to drive
If you are interested in driving single-seaters on F1 circuits – your requirements are going to be totally different to that of someone who wants to drive an E-Type around Goodwood. It will also affect what software you’ll be using, and the hardware requirements that you will have. I have some clients who are only interested in driving GT3 cars, while others want to be able to do prototypes, GT3 and rally! Having a dedicated or versatile setup for your requirements is important and will mean you get the most out of your simulator.
Utilize the driving development tools
We are so fortunate these days to be able to have access to accurate driving simulators. You can use the sims for driver development, and as standard we install data logging so it keeps track of all your laps and inputs which can be overlayed against other laps or drivers. We even use these to test setups before a race weekend. When combined with professional coaching either remotely or in person, it means you can make real gains off track which will be immediately noticeable in your performance on track.
Get the right advice from professional race and sim drivers
The difference between one simulator set up and calibrated perfectly, to an identical sim which does not have the expertise put into it, is stark. Getting the Field of View correct, the distance and angle of the monitors, using the correct monitors, the feel of the brake, the strength of the chassis… There are many things which assist to make a simulator feel accurate and fun to drive. After all, there is nothing worse than getting in a sim where the manufacturer put the display miles away with an incorrect field of view which just leaves you feeling like you are playing a computer game rather than sitting in a racing machine.
Ensure you get the right aftercare
Spending upwards of 20, 30, 50 or even GBP120,000 means it is a proper investment, and there is nothing worse than making that investment and not looking after it. Ensure you are able to get the right technical support after the sale so that you don’t end up either frustrated or perhaps with a simulator that you’re unable to drive at all.
Get the right equipment
If you want to enjoy driving classic cars around Laguna Seca, doing so with the best and latest F1 or prototype wheel just won’t cut it. Put a Mota-Lita wheel on there and you are going to have a whale of a time! Similarly, if you want to drive F1 or Prototype cars then you will want a reclined Formula seat, as opposed to the more upright GT seat. Take these things into consideration so you get the best out of your driving.
And… Enjoy it!
Driving on an accurate simulator can be exceptionally thrilling and a great learning tool when used in the right way, and less so if you are spending more time adjusting things or thinking something isn’t quite right. If you aren’t technically minded or interested, get a turnkey solution which will allow you to spend more time enjoying and less time scratching your head.
If you are reading this and in the marketing for a professional driving simulator, feel free to contact me to discuss tailoring your own sim. We offer consultation, Pro-Sim simulators (as used by Lando Norris, Mick Schumacher and the like), installation, technical support, and aftercare, remote/in-person driver coaching programs and more. We have installed simulators in homes, on yachts in Monaco, private retreats in Hong Kong, and in custom man-caves for the best possible driving experience – so I am sure we would be able to point you in the right direction for your home setup. Happy driving!
You can contact Dan directly through his Motorsport Prospects listing here.