When Racing Games Get Real

Simulators are increasingly used by racing drivers to familiarise themselves with the circuits they race on. Engineers of Formula 1 teams also use the simulators to test developments in the virtual world before even turning a wheel on the track.

This got me thinking about learning what options are there for petrolheads who want to take games like Gran Turismo 5 on the Playstation 3 and iRacing on the PC to the next level of realism. I am also taking my ARDS test to gain a National B Racing License so wanted to use this as a form of practice in between trackdays and eventually real race events.

I wanted to get hold of a steering wheel, pedals including clutch and manual gear shifter. I decided to buy the Thrustmaster T500RS wheel and pedals coupled with the Thrustmaster TH8RS gear stick. These have the advantage of being fully compatible and optimised for use with Gran Turismo 5.

The Thrustmaster gear is incredibly well made, the weight of the wheel and pedals make them feel like the real thing. Also the open gate gear shifter is made out of metal, which produces a satisfying clunk when you change gear.

Next came the decision of what to mount the wheel, pedals and gear stick to. There is a huge choice of racing rigs, made for all budgets. You can even get racing frames that mimic the racing position of a Formula 1 car or single seaters like Formula Ford.

I am interested in driving road cars and racing sports cars rather than single seaters so I focused on looking for an upright racing rig. My choice was the GT Omega Pro Racing simulator. It comes in kit form and once built up it is extremely sturdy.

The transformation of GT5 is incredible. Bumps, ridges on corners and cambers come to life. I have only spent a couple of hours with it so far, and I am having to relearn the cars I used to throw around circuits using the standard PlayStation controller. I am also noticing that I am having to think ahead, sight corners and change where I am looking so its much more like driving on a trackday then just playing a video game.

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Here is a time lapse video of the build!