Beginners Sim Racing Setup Guide – Ultimate Guide 2023
Here is our beginners guide to the perfect sim racing setup. I'll run you through every part of a sim racing setup, so you can create and build your first sim racing cockpit.
In this ultimate beginners guide, I’m going to look at how to create a sim racing setup, and how to get started sim racing. I’ll show you all of the components that go into building a sim racing setup, to help you get up and running.
Sim racing as a sport and a hobby grew in popularity hugely throughout 2020, 2021, 2022 and 2023. Many gamers and motorsport fans were looking for a new hobby which could be done at home, and sim racing ticked that box.
When you initially look at sim racing, it can be viewed as an incredibly competitive sport and it certainly can be in some scenarios. But most importantly, it is a hobby that should be enjoyed.
And sim racing can be enjoyed in a variety of ways, from the odd casual race at home to competing in professional events. Sim Racing can be enjoyed, no matter if you are racing solo races in games such as Assetto Corsa Competizione or F1 22, or racing competitively each week in iRacing.
In this guide, I’m going to show you around a sim racing setup. I’ll look at the different components that make up a sim racing cockpit, and talk about entry requirements such as what spec of PC you need, and which peripherals you need to get started.
What do I need for a sim racing setup?
To start sim racing, you only really need a game controller, a console or PC and your chosen racing game. However, to really get immersed in sim racing you will want to add elements such as a racing wheel and some pedals to your sim racing setup.
You will also need somewhere to attach your racing wheel to. This could be as simple as a desk or table, but ideally, you would have a sim rig, sim racing cockpit or wheel stand.
Once you have a racing wheel, pedals and a sim rig, you are really cooking on gas. At this point, you have everything in place for your sim racing setup. You can then start to add additional peripherals such as shifters, handbrakes and more at your own speed.
Taking a look around a sim racing cockpit
Having a look at a typical sim racing cockpit shows us exactly which peripherals many sim racers utilise and how they set them up.
You can see in the image that at the heart of every sim racing cockpit is the sim rig. This is the platform to which all other sim racing peripherals are mounted to. There are a variety of different types of sim rigs, which I’ll talk about in more detail in the sim rig section below.
You have the wheel base which is the block that sits behind the steering wheel and generates the force feedback. The wheel base is then connected to your steering wheel via a quick release or hub. Again, I’ll talk about these in much more detail below.
Towards the front of the sim rig, you’ll find the pedals, and above these, you will often find a monitor or a series of monitors mounted.
Finally, to the side of the racing wheel and seat, you will often find a handbrake and/or a shifter mounted. This isn’t required but is often useful if racing a manual car, drifting or rallying.
Racing Wheels & Steering Wheels
In entry-level sim racing wheels such as the Logitech G923, the steering wheel and wheel base often come together and are physically attached.
These types of racing wheels are designed for convenience and allow people to get started sim racing with as much ease as possible. By purchasing an all-in-one racing wheel, you’ll often save money and won’t need to worry about purchasing a wheel base, quick release and steering wheel individually.
With more high-end or professional products such as those from Fanatec or SimuCube, you will often buy the wheel base separately from the steering wheel. This allows you to customise your set-up by adding different steering wheel rims.
This approach also allows sim racers to upgrade their wheel base to a different model without necessarily changing or buying a new steering wheel. A separate wheel base allows for more flexibility when upgrading or customising your sim racing set-up.
What is a wheel base?
A sim racing wheel base is the term given to the part of the racing wheel which produces force feedback. Inside the wheel base is a motor that creates the forces.
Force feedback is then sent to the wheel shaft and in turn the steering wheel either directly from the motor, or via a series of belts and gears. The internal motor is the element that drives the steering wheel which allows it to emulate the forces that a real-world car would feel.
What is force feedback?
Force feedback is the name given to the forces that the motor inside a sim racing wheel base creates. Force feedback allows you to experience a similar feeling that a real-world driver would if they were actually driving the car.
The goal of force feedback is to give you the most realistic feeling via your steering wheel. This in turn will increase your immersion levels and give you a better idea of how your car is reacting to your inputs and the road surface.
Force feedback is always created by the motor within the wheel base, but there is a selection of different technology which is used to translate the forces from the motor to the motor shaft.
These technologies include gears and belts which are typically found on lower-powered motors. For high-powered motors there is a technology called direct drive which is the term for when the motor is directly attached to the motor shaft.
Direct drive vs gear vs belt – Which should I choose?
Direct drive racing wheels mount a larger motor directly to the wheel shaft. This allows for stronger forces and more detailed force feedback. Typically, direct drive racing wheels are the premium option.
Gear-driven racing wheels utilise a much smaller motor which is connected to the steering wheel via a series of gears which translate the force feedback. These are typically found in the cheapest sim racing wheels.
Belt-driven racing wheels utilise belts instead of gears, paired with a small motor. Belt-driven racing wheels are often smoother than racing wheels that utilise gears. But they aren’t as detailed as direct drive wheels.
Best sim racing wheels
Below are our recommendations for the best sim racing wheels across a range of budgets. This can be looked at as a quick suggestion for which racing wheel to potentially purchase within your own budget.
Best Budget Racing Wheel
Best Mid-Range Wheel
Fanatec GT DD Pro
Best Premium Racing Wheel
Fanatec ClubSport DD+
Up to 2.2Nm
Up to 8Nm
Up to 15Nm
PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC
PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC
PS4, PS5, Xbox, PC
From £269 / $350
The steering wheel part of your sim racing wheel describes the physical wheel that you hold in your hands. These can often be purchased independently from the wheel base allowing you to customise your own racing wheel setup to the style you like.
Steering wheels come in a variety of forms, from traditional circular wheels, to square open-wheel and Formula 1 style wheels.
At the more budget-friendly end of the scale, you can purchase a steering wheel which has just a few face buttons to allow you to control your console or car.
As you move up through to more expensive sim racing steering wheels you can find officially licensed wheels from brands such as BMW, Bentley and Ferrari. The most premium steering wheels feature large screens which can show full telemetry readouts from in-game.
You can also find steering wheels which have a lot more input on the wheel itself, in the form of rotational encoders, switches and buttons. These allow you to control more in-depth functions of your car whilst driving. Examples include adjusting your traction control, turning on your headlights through to changing engine modes and turning off your engine.
If you are purchasing a higher-end sim racing steering wheel separately from your wheel base, you will require a quick-release to attach it to the wheel base.
A quick-release is the piece of hardware which directly connects your steering wheel to your wheel base ensuring your wheel doesn’t come loose.
These can come in a variety of PCD measurements which is the term for the steering wheel fitment. You will have to ensure that you match the PCD to the steering wheel’s fitment in order for it to work.
If you want to mount a steering wheel to a wheel base but the PCD measurements don’t match, you can find adaptors that bridge this gap. These allow you to match a variety of sim racing steering wheels with a range of wheel bases.
Once you have your racing wheel, the next piece of your sim racing setup is the pedals. Along with the racing wheel, the pedals are the only other part of a sim racing setup that is really required to start racing.
Pedals are sometimes included as part of a sim racing bundle along with a wheel base and steering wheel. This is often the case with more accessible and affordable products such as the Logitech G923.
But you can purchase higher-end pedals individually such as those from Heusinkveld, who offer professional-level sim racing pedals.
You will often look to mount your pedals to a pedal mount which is normally part of your sim racing cockpit. Once mounted to a sim rig, you can press the racing pedals as hard as required without worrying about them moving across the floor or coming loose.
Much like wheel bases and steering wheels, sim racing pedals also come in a variety of different formats with a range of differing technology.
These technologies normally refer to the way the forces and inputs are measured. You can purchase the best sim racing pedals with much more advanced technology which produces more realistic input, but the more high-end you go, the more the price will increase.
The different types of sim racing pedals are;
A potentiometer sim racing pedal will measure the force applied by the distance the pedal is pressed. This means the further you push the pedal in, the higher the braking force will be applied in-game.
These types of pedals are often found in more budget-friendly pedals, and they offer the least amount of realism during use. If you are coming from a real-world car, these also offer the least amount of realism, making sim racing with them a little harder.
Hall effect sensor pedals
Hall effect sensor pedals work in a similar way to potentiometer pedals, in that they measure the distance the pedal is pressed to determine the amount of input.
However, they are slightly more advanced due to them utilising contactless magnets to transfer the data. This means they will generally last longer and not wear as much as a potentiometer pedal would. The use of magnets also allows them to be more precise than a potentiometer pedal.
Load cell pedals
A load cell pedal is commonly found in intermediate to high-end sim racing pedals. These use a load cell to measure the force applied rather than the distance travelled.
This allows the pedal to work much more like a real-world car pedal. You can achieve more accurate and consistent results from using a load cell pedal due to the inputs and force applied becoming muscle memory. This often leads to more consistency, especially under braking.
Load cell pedals are typically more expensive than potentiometer and hall effect sensors. However, the improvement in realism and performance often makes them worth considering as you upgrade your sim racing setup.
Sitting at the top of the performance tree are hydraulic sim racing pedals. These use a hydraulic system to measure braking force as you compress the pedal. Much like a load cell, hydraulic pedals can measure the forces applied extremely accurately. And they are typically the closest you can get to replicating a real-world car pedal.
A sim racing cockpit or sim rig is the name given to the part of your sim racing setup that you mount your wheel and pedals to. Sim rigs can vary widely in design, price and quality.
As the sim rig or cockpit will act as the base for all of your peripherals to be mounted to, you should spend some time ensuring that you find a sim racing cockpit solution that is right for you.
If space is an issue, you could opt for a wheel stand which can be folded away. However, if you are looking to add high-end sim racing equipment to your cockpit, you should ensure your sim rig can handle the forces that will be sent through it.
For example, a direct drive racing wheel can create forces so strong that it causes some sim rigs to shake or flex. And not all sim rigs are strong enough to withstand the forces required to fully depress hydraulic or load cell brake pedals.
At the entry-level, you will find sim racing wheel stands that are completely independent of your seat. These allow you to attach your racing wheel and pedals which prevent them from moving during use.
This, along with a simple desk or table mount is generally considered a beginner sim racing setup. Higher-powered wheels and pedals will require a sturdier support structure to avoid flexing during use.
One of the benefits of using an independent sim racing wheel stand is that they often fold away allowing for easy storage. If you are looking for a temporary solution to mounting a racing wheel without requiring a lot of space, a wheel stand is a great solution.
Stepping up from a wheel stand you will find all-in-one sim rigs. These come in a variety of forms and span a wide price range. At the more budget-friendly end you will find models such as the PlaySeat Evolution and GT Omega ART.
These feature an in-built racing seat, as well as mounts for your pedals and wheels. You can move up in budget to relatively expensive all-in-one sim rigs which feature heavier construction methods as well as a variety of attachments.
Aluminium profile rigs
Aluminium profile sim rigs offer the sturdiest sim racing cockpit solution and are designed for strength and customizability. An aluminium profile sim rig, (often referred to as an 80/20 sim rig), features lengths of aluminium profile which can be combined and attached in a wide variety of designs.
The construction in an aluminium profile rig will be extremely sturdy, allowing you to attach the strongest direct drive wheel bases and load cell pedals without the worry of flexing during use.
Most sim racing cockpits and sim rigs come without a racing seat attached, although some all-in-one solutions do include these.
But for sim rigs without a racing seat, you will have to choose a sim racing seat to be able to start sim racing. Sim racing seats come in a variety of styles, from reclining seats that are close to a road car seat. Through to custom moulded fibreglass racing seats similar to those used in real-world motorsports.
Typically, racing seats will be mounted from the side using seat brackets which are often universal in size. This is almost always the case with bucket seats. Plus, having a true bucket seat will add to the immersion of sim racing as you can feel like you are stepping into a real race car every time you step in and out.
Read our guide on the best racing seats for sim racing.
Gaming PC or Console
I’m going to start straight away by saying that you can sim race on both a PC and a modern console such as the PS5 or Xbox Series X|S.
While this is definitely the case, sim racing on a console can restrict both what sim racing games you can access, and what hardware works.
When sim racing on a PC, you get a wider range of sim racing titles, you can push the performance further than you can on console and there are a wider range of sim racing products due to expanded compatibility.
Much like other modern games, a decent gaming PC is required to run most racing simulators at higher settings.
Some racing simulators such as iRacing and Automobilista 2 aren’t overly demanding on graphics despite looking quite good. These games can be run on mid-level gaming PC’s.
Other games such as F1 22 and Assetto Corsa Competizione require higher-end gaming PC’s to be able to push the graphics performance and frame rate.
You can pick up gaming PC’s and gaming laptops for under $/£1,000 that are capable of running racing sims at relatively high settings.
If you want to check whether your current PC can run a certain simulator you can do so by using a website such as www.pcgamebenchmark.com.
Example sim racing PC specs
Below are a few recommended gaming PC builds that are ideal for sim racing.
Run most racing sims at low-medium graphics settings
Achieve consistant 60FPS at high graphics settings
Ultimate Racing PC
Achieve high FPS at max graphics settings
TRIPLE SCREEN COMPATIBLE
TRIPLE SCREEN COMPATIBLE
Yes - 1080p
TRIPLE SCREEN COMPATIBLE
Yes - 1440p
Is sim racing better on PC or console?
As mentioned above in the sim racing games section, there are a variety of sim racing titles that are available on Xbox and PlayStation consoles. These include Assetto Corsa Competizione, DIRT Rally 2.0, F1 22 and more.
There is no real disadvantage to sim racing on a console, other than higher performance can be extracted from a PC with good enough specs.
When purchasing hardware to sim race on a console, you should certainly ensure the racing wheels, pedals etc are compatible with your console. Brands such as Fanatec, Thrustmaster and Logitech all make console-specific products that are only compatible with specific platforms.
What GPU do I need for sim racing?
Your GPU is the most important element when looking to build a gaming PC, as this is what will be taking the most load during gameplay.
If you are running high-performance demanding games such as Assetto Corsa Competizione or if you are sim racing in VR, you will likely want to opt for a higher-performing GPU.
A relatively powerful GPU such as an Nvidia RTX 3070 would be sufficient for running most sim racing titles at a relatively high frame rate with good graphic performance.
Is 60FPS enough for sim racing?
When sim racing, you should aim for a minimum of 60FPS. Sim racing often requires fast reflexes and quick adjustments mid-corner. Anything below 60FPS will impact how fast you can react to specific situations on track.
If you have the choice of better graphics at 30FPS, or slightly lower graphic settings at 60FPS, I would recommend the latter. If you can achieve a consistent 60FPS when sim racing, that will be more than good enough.
Choosing the right sim racing monitor is often one of the bigger discussion points within sim racing communities. You will often see sim racers using a triple screen setup, while others opt for widescreen gaming monitors.
The advantage of having a triple-screen gaming monitor setup is that you will instantly be able to see more of the track and other cars around you.
You will be able to see cars pulling alongside you, and you’ll have a constant view of your side mirrors. This can be helpful when defending against other sim racers and is certainly an advantage.
The downside of using a triple-screen monitor setup for sim racing is that you first need a GPU with good enough specifications to run three monitors at once, and you also will have bezels in between each screen.
Bezels can be distracting as they will mask or obscure some of your view. This can be combated to some degree with bezel-free kits.
The alternate option for your sim racing setup is to use a widescreen or ultra-widescreen gaming monitor. These often allow you to see close to just as much information as a triple-screen setup.
An ultrawide monitor will often look more appealing as there are no bezels, and they can wrap around your sim racing setup much like a triple screen setup would.
Do you need 3 monitors for sim racing?
You don’t need 3 monitors when sim racing. Yes, a triple-screen setup will allow you to see more information around you such as your mirrors or other competitors.
However, a widescreen monitor can also allow you to see more information. And if you are sim racing on a regular 16:9 gaming monitor, you can utilise on-screen HUD elements such as artificial mirrors or on-screen radars to see other cars around you.
Can you use a TV for sim racing?
Many console sim racers will opt for a TV as part of their gaming and sim racing setup. This is absolutely fine and works perfectly well.
The Best F1 23 Racing WheelsView the very best racing wheels for F1 23 on Xbox, PC & PS5. View the best wheels
However, most TVs won’t be as optimised to utilise high frame rates or technology such as G-Sync. For these reasons, a gaming monitor will almost always be better than a TV when sim racing.
Racing Gloves & Boots
As you start to spend more time in your sim racing setup, you may want to be more comfortable or find ways to increase your overall immersion. Sim racing gloves and boots are ideal to increase comfort and immersion.
Sim racing gloves
Wearing sim racing gloves while behind the wheel comes with a few benefits. It will often be more comfortable to wear gloves. And it will also help preserve the condition of your steering wheel.
When sim racing with bare hands, sweat and dirt will be transferred to your steering wheel, and can start to discolour or wear your grips over time. Sim racing gloves will help prevent this and will allow your steering wheel to look newer for longer.
Sim racing boots
Sim racing boots don’t necessarily help preserve the condition of your pedals, but it can be much more comfortable than sim racing barefoot or wearing socks.
This is especially true if you sim race a lot of manual cars and utilise heel-and-toe downshifting. If you’ve ever tried to do this without wearing shoes, you will know just how much it can hurt the side of your foot over time. For this reason alone, wearing sim racing boots is much more beneficial in this scenario.
There are brands such as Abruzzi that specialise in selling sim racing boots and gloves. Alternatively, you can opt for a pair of lightweight karting or motocross gloves.
Should I wear socks while sim racing?
I have long been an advocate of sim racing wearing socks. Personally, I spend a lot of time sim racing open-wheeled and F1 cars, therefore I rarely utilise the clutch, or heel-and-toe downshifting.
For this reason, I don’t need to wear sim racing boots to prevent injury. If you are in a similar situation, then sim racing wearing socks is perfectly comfortable. however, if you are going to race manual cars, then I would certainly look to find a good pair of sim racing boots.
How Much Should I Budget?
Deciding how much to budget for your sim racing setup should be one of the first questions you ask yourself before deciding on which equipment to purchase.
It is no secret that sim racing can be an expensive hobby. Sim racing peripherals such as racing wheels and sim racing cockpits can cost rather a lot of money. And it is ever so easy to fall into the trap of constantly upgrading certain equipment.
Much like in motor racing there is a saying that safety cars lead to more safety cars. In sim racing a similar saying could be that upgrades lead to more upgrades.
For example, if you want to upgrade your racing wheel, this could lead to you requiring a sturdier sim rig, which would then require a different racing seat, and so on.
Deciding on a budget
Budget of €/$500
If you are looking to start sim racing on the smallest budget possible, you can get everything you need to start sim racing for under €/$500.
This would cover the cost of a budget racing wheel and pedals such as the Logitech G923. The rest of the budget would go on purchasing a gaming chair or racing seat, with the assumption that you would mount the racing wheel to a table or desk.
Budget of €/$1000
If you want to have a permanent sim racing cockpit you should budget for a minimum of around €/$1000. This cost would get you a Logitech or Thrustmaster racing wheel and pedal set along with a shifter or handbrake. And you could purchase a GT Omega or Next Level Racing entry-level sim rig within that price.
But one of the best things to do when deciding on a budget is to ensure you are future-proofing your sim racing setup.
Budget of €/$2000
You certainly don’t want to be forced into re-purchasing a sim rig or a wheel base if you decide to upgrade your setup. Opting for a direct drive wheel base or a sturdy sim rig early can save you a lot of money in the future.
If this is the route you wanted to go down, you could purchase a mid-tier aluminium profile sim rig and a small direct drive wheel base, plus all other equipment such as a racing seat, steering wheel, and quick release for under €/$2000.
Example Sim Racing Setup Builds
Below is a range of sim racing setup builds. I have created three categories, beginner through to professional. In each category, I’ve suggested the sim racing equipment that I would recommend.
These gear suggestions aren’t prescriptive, instead they are designed to give you an idea of some of the best sim racing equipment in each category.
Included with G923
Gomez Formula Pro
Included with G923
What games should I play?
When it comes to choosing your sim racing game of choice the options are vast. There is a wide range of racing simulators and games available for a selection of different platforms.
The majority of realistic sim racing games can only be found on PC, however, there are an increasing number of simulator games that are making their way to Xbox and PlayStation consoles.
PC Sim racing games
PC will be most sim racers platform of choice due to its huge game library. This is where the most competitive sim racing games live and is where most esports take place.
One of the most popular sim racing games is iRacing which is only accessible on PC. iRacing offers a subscription-based model where you subscribe monthly to gain access to the game.
You can take part in full seasons of online competitive racing in iRacing and purchase more cars as you progress. View the latest iRacing promo codes here.
There are also extremely realistic games such as Automobilista 2 and Assetto Corsa Competizione. These games offer extremely realistic racing across a multiplayer and single-player experience.
rFactor 2 and Race Room offer similar experiences to iRacing providing a very realistic platform to race on. These two aren’t as popular as iRacing and utilise a different payment model, but both feature their own passionate community.
Xbox Series X|S games
When sim racing on Xbox consoles, your main go-to simulators will be those which are available on all consoles. These include the F1 series of games from Codemasters which offer the most realistic licensed Formula 1 experience.
Then there are staple sim games such as Assetto Corsa Competizione and DIRT Rally 2.0 which offer some of the best GT and rally racing experiences.
On Xbox consoles, you will also get access to Forza Motorsport which is Xbox exclusive. This is much like Gran Turismo in that it offers relatively realistic racing across a wide range of cars.
PlayStation 5 games
The main perk of sim racing on PS5 or PS4 is access to the Gran Turismo games. Gran Turismo 7 was released in 2022, and GT Sport has been one of the most popular simulator games over the past few years.
You can also get access to sim games such as Assetto Corsa Competizione and Dirt Rally 2.0 as well as the F1 series of games, as these are all available across all platforms.
The main thing to remember if you are a beginner to sim racing, is that you should find your way of having fun sim racing. There are so many ways you can sim race, from non-competitive to extremely competitive environments.
Hopefully, this guide to getting started sim racing and building your own sim racing setup has been useful. And hopefully it has helped you familiarise yourself with the main parts of a sim racing setup.
Grab Your Sim Racing Gear Here
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Frequently Asked Questions
Do you need a good PC for sim racing?
Much like any PC gaming, you will need a fairly decent PC to be able to run the latest sim racing games. Although titles such as iRacing don’t require amazing specs, so you can run them on a mid-level gaming PC.
What Do I Need For a Professional Sim Racing Setup?
A professional sim racing setup will include a sturdy 80/20 sim rig, a direct drive racing wheel, load cell or hydraulic pedals, an ultrawide or triple screen monitor, a good gaming PC and various other peripherals.
What is the best sim racing setup?
The very best sim racing setup can set you back tens of thousands, and is almost completely unobtainable for most sim racers. The Pro-Sim Formula Evolution cockpit can be viewed as one of the very best sim racing setups and was designed by F1 driver Lando Norris for his own simulator at home. This costs over €/$25,550.