Embarking on the journey of building your first beginner simulator setup can be a daunting prospect for those new to the arena, but it can be an immensely enjoyable experience that provides numerous benefits beyond just racing. In this guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to build the perfect beginner simulator setup.
What does a sim setup include?
You can either build the setup yourself or purchase a pre-built option. Building your own setup will give you more flexibility in terms of customisation and potentially save you some money, but pre-built options can be more convenient for most beginners - and that's what we'll cover here. This guide assumes you want to get everything just right, and leans into the semi-DIY sim racer setup - where you can have as much fun putting things together as actually tearing down the track! With little actual building, and more racing - it's the best way to get started.
Here's what you're going to need, in brief:
First - the hardware you’ll need. A sim racing setup typically consists of a racing seat or racing rig, pedals, steering wheel, and a PC or gaming console. Although gaming consoles are absolutely perfect for the arcade racers out there, you cannot get the same level of customisation unless you opt for a gaming PC. That said, the console experience can be electric!
The heart of the sim setup! Besides the immersive seat, steering wheel and pedals, yo ureally do need the best PC for gaming simulators that you can afford. You don't need to go crazy, either, to have an enjoyable experience - but for total immersion, and to feel like you're on the track, you will need an excellent graphics card with a specification that delivers speed and performance by the boot-load.
Seat, Wheel, Pedals!
You’ll need to purchase a racing seat and connect pedals and a steering wheel to your PC or console. Most manufacturers provide detailed instructions, so don’t worry if you’re not an expert in assembling things. It’s important to ensure that everything is correctly installed and calibrated to provide a smooth and realistic racing experience.
Now let’s talk about the games. There are numerous sim racing games available, each with its own unique features and advantages. Some of the most popular games include iRacing, Assetto Corsa, and Project Cars (this author's personal favourite). You’ll need to purchase the game of your choice and install it on your PC or console. Most sim racers prefer gaming PCs, as we know, and Steam has a great number of games to choose from - each with its own community of budding racing stars.
Virtual Reality is now huge in racing sims, making you feel like you are indeed sat in the driving seat and immersing you in an incredible world of speed and excitement! VR sets can be expensive, but are well worth your investment if you intend on making your sim racing hobby as realistic as possible. As a fan of Project Cars 2, the VR element absolutely took my racing sim enjoyment to new levels.
Next, you’ll need to set up your controls in the game. This involves calibrating your pedals and steering wheel to ensure that they work correctly within the game. Most games provide detailed instructions on how to do this, and some even offer presets for specific hardware.
Finally, it’s time to race! Sim racing is a great way to improve and perfect your in-game driving skills, and you’ll quickly find yourself addicted to the competitive and immersive experience. You can participate in various racing events and championships, and even race against professional drivers like Max Verstappen!
Beyond just racing, sim racing also offers numerous benefits. It can teach you valuable skills such as computer literacy and DIY assembly skills, which can be useful in many other areas of life. Additionally, there’s a strong social aspect to sim racing, with many friendly communities and forums where you can connect with other racing enthusiasts.
Sim racing setup in detail
Now we've looked at what you need in brief, we can go into a little more detail, so you really understand what you need to get the best out of your setup.
Sim Racing Cockpit or Rig
Your racing rig is the foundation of your simulator setup. It is where you will mount most of your sim racing equipment. One of the most popular rigs for beginners and intermediates is the 8020 rig.
8020 Racing Rig
Image courtesy of isrtv.com
These aluminium extrusion rigs are called “8020 rigs”, which denotes a particular size of aluminium profile. 8020 is actually not the profile size used a lot of racing rigs today, but the name stuck in the community!
The 8020 is made of aluminium profile and it’s easy to assemble, easy to modify, and won't flex that much even for sturdier drivers. That said, it's not for everyone. It is bulky and requires some getting used to. As you can see from the footprint of the frame in the above image - you will need a spare room!
These lightweight and foldable rigs are perfect for the beginner, and don't require as much outlay. For this reason, we have assumed you took this route as a beginner with the rest of this guide.
The Next Level Racing® GTLite in the image above has a unique design that folds to pack away (even with electronics installed) so you can store the cockpit away when not in use. The GTLite and other products like it are designed to be portable, but there's nothing to say you can't leave it where it is - and not take up as much room, either!
Your seat is where you'll spend most of your time in your simulator, so it’s important to choose a comfortable one. There are many options available, but as a beginner, you don’t need to go for a real motorsport seat. However, having a proper bucket seat can add authenticity to your setup. If you purchase a bundle, you can get a lot more for your money.
Your monitor stand is where you'll mount your monitor. You can choose between standalone options or stands that will mount to your rig. Standalone gives you some flexibility in storage, so it is worth going for this option. Monitor stands like this GT Omega on Amazon is a great buy at under £80.
For full immersion, the wider the monitor the better. We recommend a widescreen monitor. Some sim racers like a dual-monitor setup, but for ease of use, a single wide format monitor is ideal.