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So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

What it takes to piece together a high-end sim racing experience.

Ceso Bagay
Jun 3, 2020
Photographer: Renz Dimaandal

If you're new to sim racing, you won't be blamed for feeling overwhelmed by the specifics of piecing together a proper racing simulator setup. Getting serious about hardware for virtual motorsport nowadays generally means you'll need a PC, seat, rig, steering wheel and pedals, and also means ditching the traditional controller. So, if you're new to all of this, or have been considering getting into sim racing for a while and were just waiting for the right primer, look at this as a roundup of everything you'll need.

SIM RACING GAMING PC

Building A Race Simulator MSI Trident X 01 Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

In the PC market, it's no longer necessary to make space for a full-sized tower to get a taste of the high-end gaming experience. With small form factor solutions getting popular over recent years, computer maker MSI has stepped into the arena with their off-the-shelf turnkey PC gaming systems in a console size form. MSI's latest offering is the Trident X Plus.

The first thing you'll notice is the Trident X Plus's dimensions. It's a perfect compact size with the advantages of a desktop tower PC. Coming in a 10-liter volume case and measuring 15.6 x 15.1 x 5.1 inches, the pre-built PC packs quite a bit of power in spite of its small footprint. In this case, it's equipped with Intel's 9th generation core processor, paired with NVIDIA GeForce RTX 2070 Super graphics card, 16GB of ram, a 512GB M.2 NVME SSD, a 2TB hard drive, and cooled with MSI's Silent Storm Cooling system.

Alongside the blazing fast specs, the chassis comes with a metal or tempered glass side (both included), RGB lighting, and a whole horde of connectivity. The left side of the chassis is vented in two key locations, across the top section, allowing optimal airflow to the graphics card, and below to keep the power supply cool. The right side has a perforated mesh giving the Intel 9th generation CPU fresh air. Along the top is a row of vent strips allowing hot air to escape from the RTX 2070 Super graphics card in addition to the power button. On the front side is a strip of vents and ample amount of USB ports and a microphone and headphone jack, perfect for daily use.

Building A Race Simulator MSI Trident X 02 Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

With having a small footprint, MSI has pretty much hit a homerun with the Trident X Plus. Not much bigger than an Xbox One, it packs a much bigger punch than its size suggests. The Trident X definitely has all the bells and whistles you would want in a gaming machine. Whether you're a serious sim racer, hardcore gamer, or both, this is worth considering.

SCREEN TIME

Once you have sorted your PC out, you will need a monitor to be able to use it. The type of monitor you use is up to you, but the most important key features to look for when selecting a monitor are refresh rate, response time, resolution, and of course size.

Building A Race Simulator MSI Monitor Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

The MSI Optix MAG322CR is their latest addition to its growing numbers of gaming monitors and checks all the boxes for a racing simulator monitor. It sports a resolution of 1920 x 1080 in a 16:9 aspect ratio. Oh, and it's really curved, an impressive 1500R curve. The curve is very noticeable, adding a real sense of immersion. It has a DisplayPort 1.2a, two HDMI 2.0b, two USB 3.2 Type-A, and USB Type-C. The monitor is also equipped with a very fast refresh rate at 180hz with AMD Freesync, and a 1ms response time to give you that super smooth gaming experience.

In terms of design, the MSI Optix MAG322CR is sleek and minimal, with RGB accents and lighting on the back that you can also sync with, like the Trident X. Furthermore, it has super-thin bezels; you can even combine two more MAG322CR for triple-screen setup to even maximize your sim racing experience. However, the MSI Optix MAG322CR does not come with built-in speakers, but it does come with a 3.5mm headphone port so that you can connect your speakers or headset to the monitor.

Focusing on the essentials, the Optix MAG322CR delivers. The large 32-inch curved screen, alongside with the 180hz refresh rate and response time, makes the MSI MAG322CR a perfect choice for a sim racing and gaming monitor. Alternatively, if you want something faster or a fan of the ultrawide monitors, you can also check out MSI's other offerings.

NOT COMPLETE WITHOUT THE SEAT

Building A Race Simulator MOMO Lesmo One Seat 01 Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

Italian motorsports manufacturer MOMO focuses primarily on steering wheels but also produces a wide variety of racing products, such as seats. The MOMO Lesmo One racing seat will do the job for a proper sim racing rig.

Don't let the all black look bore you - there is much more here than meets the eye. The shell of the Lesmo One is a unique contoured shape that is made from a fiberglass composite shell for superior durability and weighing in at just 23 lbs. (not that a lightweight seat necessarily means anything in sim racing).

Building A Race Simulator MOMO Lesmo One Seat 02 Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

Up close on the front portion of the Lesmo One seat, it is upholstered in a fire-retardant black cloth material. Sweat a lot? Well, don't sweat it; the exclusive Airnet technical material covers the back cushions to ensure comfort, resembling a beehive structured for strength, grip, and overall breathability.

Building A Race Simulator MOMO Certificate Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

A standout feature of the Lesmo One is its high side bolsters. Having a slightly raised-knee design provides comfort for longer seat times, keeping your thighs and butt in one place. The Lesmo One boasts an additional laundry list of safety features for actual racing, but since this one is headed into a sim rig they don't exactly matter.

Now before you go and purchase a seat, we highly recommend do a proper test fit on which seat best suits you. MOMO has produced ingenious racing products over the years and has an even wider selection to choose from, whether it be the Super Cup seat to the Lesmo One racing seat, MOMO will have exactly what you need and is worth checking out.

A SOLID FOUNDATION

Building A Race Simulator Sim Lab GT1 Evo Silver 1 Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

In search of "the rig," the brand that fit the bill for us is Sim Lab. Their rigs are all about endless customization, and if you are looking for something that will fit you most like a tailored suit, their cockpits deliver.

Sim Lab GT-1 EVO

The Sim Lab GT-1 EVO represents a great mid-range rig that can easily compete with some of the higher tier cockpits on the market. Although this might not be a go-to setup for higher-end wheelbases, it works great with just about anything else. It provides many great mounting locations, accessories, and comfort for a decent mid-range rig. You really can't go wrong with the GT-1 EVO.

Sim Lab P1-X

Building A Race Simulator Sim Lab P1 X Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

For an even greater range of adjustability, the P1-X the predecessor of the P1 and is hands down one of the best sim rig chassis available today. The new pedal tray that the P1-X sports is a very heavy-duty unit that gives you the ability to raise the pedal tray to different heights ensuring you can get a proper ergonomic seating position, accommodate different pedal sets, and the ability for movement in all directions. For extra stability, Sim Lab has added four corner feet brackets that are completely adjustable, which overall gives it a nice aesthetic look to it. If you want a rock-solid sim racing rig that is easy to customize to your own personal requirements, consider the Sim Lab P1-X.

Building A Race Simulator Sim Lab P1 Upgrade Kit Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

Read Our Full Review of The Sim Lab P1 Cockpit

THE WHEEL(BASE) DEAL

Finally the meat and potatoes of this whole thing, the hardware you'll be gripping your hands around as you're turning virtual corners. There is a wide range of sim racing wheels and pedals out in the market today, but for a complete all-around package we looked at the Fanatec product line-up.

Building A Race Simulator Fanatec CSW V25 Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

Fanatec CSW V2.5

The Fanatec ClubSport V2.5 is one the best wheelbases on the market available today. The force feedback is strong, smooth, quiet, and delivers the best simulated racing experience. In addition to the Fanatec ClubSport Wheelbase, the Fanatec ClubSport Pedals V3 also come in an inverted option. As mentioned earlier, the ClubSport V3 pedals are compatible with the ClubSport V2.5 Wheelbase that will only enhance your driving and overall experience with its realistic features. With the wide Fanatec ecosystem product line-up, we believe this is the best performing racing wheel and pedal set you can possibly get.

Fanatec DD

Building A Race Simulator Fanatec DD1 Base Wheel Photo 30/30   |   So, You Want to Build a Racing Simulator ...

The Fanatec Podium Direct Drive wheelbase is on a different level, a class above the ClubSport lineup. The Podium Direct Drive wheelbases use a custom out-runner motor that has no gears, no belts, just pure raw force feedback coming straight from the game. Typically, a direct-drive wheelbase is what professional race car drivers use in simulator training, and Fanatec offers a pro-sumer direct-drive wheelbase. While this may not quite be the wheelbase for all sim racers, it's also probably the last sim racing wheelbase you'll ever need.

Read Our Full Review on The Fanatec DD 1 Wheelbase

STEERING WHEELS

If you're curious about using aftermarket steering wheels on your wheelbase, Fanatec offers a universal hub that allows aftermarket wheels such as MOMO and others to be attached. Just as long it has a compatible 6 hole or 3-hole bolt pattern, it will mount on it, but we highly recommend checking with the rim manufacture before you purchase one.

So, there you have it! Whether you're purchasing an upgrade or diving deep into a sim racing simulator, there's a setup for everyone. Sim racing is more than just a hobby, it's also a great tool to learn new tracks and practice for an upcoming track event or esports race.

For more detailed specs and ordering information, visit:

By Ceso Bagay
14 Articles

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