Sim racing represents a fantastic value as a training tool for your driver development program. The holiday shopping season often has the best prices for electronics, so in this Black Friday/Cyber Monday post I will offer up a few builds.
I think the best way to get started is with Assetto Corsa and rFactor 2. Both are on sale right now on Steam for 75% and 50% off. Neither one has a subscription price, so you can get both for $20. After a couple months, if you decide you want to compete against other people, iRacing is the best platform for finding races at any time of the day. I don’t think you should jump right into iRacing because of the emphasis on competing. Whether you’re racing to win or racing not to lose you can pick up bad habits when you’re focused on placement instead of technique. Learn to drive, then learn to race.
Low Budget Build
Most PCs going back 5-10 years have enough CPU power and RAM to run sim racing titles like Assetto Corsa, iRacing, and rFactor 2. That means you can convert an old desktop into your sim rig. There are second hand PC stores that will sell you a decent machine for $50-100. 1080p monitors are as little as $100 new, so you might find those second hand for half that. Make sure you check the performance of the graphics card at the website below. You’ll want something with a Passmark score of at least 1000.
If you have a little more money, you can upgrade the GPU. Check the best value chart and buy something near the top of the list that’s around $100. Sometimes you can find shockingly good deals.
If you look at the RSR Live Timing site, which is where many Assetto Corsa drivers log their lap times, you’ll find that most of the fastest lap times are set with Logitech G25, G27, DFGT, G29, and G920 hardware. The G25, G27, and DFGT were replaced by the G29 and G920 a couple years ago and yet fast times are still being set with older hardware. That’s because the Logitech gear is robust enough to last years and good enough to set world records. Don’t listen to the sim racing snobs who tell you that belt and direct drive are necessary. Logitech is good enough. You should be able to find a used one for $75-100.
The total price of the budget build is $225-400. That’s around the price of a track day.
Turn Key Build
You can get a decent gaming computer for $540 from Amazon. Instead of getting a 1080p monitor, you might rather get something with a wider field of view. A 2560×1080 monitor will let you look through the corners and see your mirrors better and some are as little as $150. I recently purchased a curved 2560×1080 and I highly recommend that over a typical 16:9 1080p. That ran me about $300 though. I think an extra wide monitor is a nice compromise between a single 1080p and a triple screen.
To simplify your life, get all the controllers from one company. That way you can use the pre-packaged presets in the sims and you don’t have to have more than one set of drivers. Whether you decide on Logitech, Thrustmaster, or Fanatec is mostly about your budget. I feel pretty strongly that brake pedals ought to have load cells, so I might prefer going with Fanatec from the get-go if I didn’t want to mod the brake.
- Logitech G29 $199 – Total $900
- Thrustmaster T300 RS $299 – Total $1000
- Thrustmaster TX XW $649 – Total $1350
- Fanatec $1000-1500 – Total $1700-2200
While you can clamp the wheel to a desk and throw the pedals beneath, you will have a better experience in a cockpit of some kind. I don’t think the simple wheel stands are a good idea because the force feedback of the wheel overwhelms their stability. If you’re trying to cut costs, use a desk. If you want a cockpit, get a cockpit. I don’t have any experience buying these though. As I mentioned in my post about why not to build a sim rig, space is the primary concern.