simlife - part four

March 19, 2020 /// issue no. 79

Today we are wrapping up our series on sim racing and I hope you’re ready to pull the trigger or upgrade your current setup to stimulate our crumbling economy. If you haven’t been following, we have covered:

In our final installment, we will cover perhaps the most important part of your sim experience - what you see. Can you get buy with the computer monitor you already have? What if you add two more to make it a triple setup? And what about VR?

Growing up, my favorite arcade game was Daytona USA. It had a force feedback wheel and what at the time seemed like a HUGE screen. By today’s standards the graphics were horrible, but if you’re on a gaming PC trying to drive a stock car the screen you have in front of you is already plenty.

So far in this series I have made a fundamental assumption and will wrap up with further assumptions. I am going to put the assumption that you are trying to road race on hold to tell you that my advice does not really apply if you are trying to oval race in iRacing. The stock car series in iRacing are insanely popular and one of the reasons is the low barrier to entry. You don’t need a hyper-sensitive force feedback wheel. You don’t need simulated hydraulic brake pressure. And you don’t need VR goggles. All of those things are bonuses and if you already have a gaming PC and a decent monitor you’re all set.

Now back to assumptions. I assume you know that I am going to push you towards road racing in iRacing. You are going to get the Thrustmaster T300RS pedal and wheel set to start out with. You are going to get a GT Omega APEX wheel stand until you figure out if you really want a giant cockpit in your house. And a single monitor setup isn’t going to cut it.

One of the keys to road racing is looking as far ahead down the track as you can. This is simply impossible with a single monitor setup. So what’s a sim racer to do? Triple monitors or virtual reality. Even this is a fairly simple decision. Many people get motion sickness with VR and especially with VR and sim racing. Find someone who has a setup that you can borrow for a week and see if you can stomach it. If you can’t, let’s go with 3 monitors mounted to Trak Racer’s triple stand.

So what about VR? Sim racing with a VR headset is superior to monitors in every single way. You can actually look ahead with where your head wants to go. What you remember is being in a car rather than being in your office staring at 3 hours. The question comes down to the same question every other person who is looking for a VR setup asks. Oculus Rift or HTC Vive? Nerds like me might argue that the Vive is the better unit based on specs, but the Oculus Rift is all you need. I mentioned earlier in the series that iRacing’s graphics are ancient. You won’t be able to take advantage of any spec superiority that the Vive has and iRacing is plug-and-play with the Rift. Amazing. This boiled down to only a single recommendation.

So let’s tally it up. You’re going to join iRacing. The regular price is $110 but there’s always a deal and you can renew on Black Friday every year for much less than that. Going rate today is $66. Let’s assume you’ll need to budget $100 for extra cars and tracks. You already have a PC (:fingers_crossed:) capable of running VR. You settle on a Thrustmaster T300RS knowing that you’ll eventually upgrade to a Fanatec setup, but that’s $300 for now. Your GT Omega stand is $150 and you will worry about the rear frame and a racing seat later. You’re worried about getting COVID-19 from a used Oculus Rift S so you drop $400 on that as well.

You are going to spend $1,000 on sim racing this year. That’s a quarter of the cost of a beat up Miata, less than the cost of 2 track days if you consider consumables, and if you live in the U.S. that’s going to be completely subsidized by your government very soon. So while you’re quarantined you might as well cash that check on a sim racing setup. See you on the virtual track.

Coffee time,

daily automotive addiction.