How to build a professional and complete Sim Racing Cockpit: components, measurements and practical tips

23 October 2023
How to build a professional sim racing cockpit

Building a professional sim racing cockpit in your own home ideal for sim racing is not at all a mission impossible, as long as you know all the advantages and disadvantages of do-it-yourself compared to a ready-made turnkey solution and, most important, having in mind what is the budget you have available to start the venture. 

Let’s see together what steps to follow in order to build a professional and complete sim racing cockpit! 

Before starting to build the Sim Racing Cockpit

Before purchasing all the useful components to create a sim racing and driving simulation cockpit, we recommend that you define and determine: 

  1. The budget available for the entire project 
  1. The spaces available within the house 
  1. The goals you want to achieve with the sim racing rig 

Why are these three key points are important? Simple: 

  1. The budget, the maximum amount of money we can spend, will allow us to determine from the outset the components of the rig we want to prioritize. Obviously, the higher a budget, the better the quality of the driving experience will be. Those with a high budget may also consider the alternative of buying a complete, ready-to-use professional sim racing cockpit. 
  1. The space intended to accommodate the simulator should be defined before purchase because it will influence the size of the components chosen. Space, for example, will allow for one or more screens in the sim racing rig. 
  1. The goals certainly depend on both the space available and the budget, and vice versa. For example, if we want an extremely realistic sim racing rig we are unlikely to be able to field a low budget and mini space. 

That is why it is recommended to start building a sim racing rig only once these fixed points have been established.   

Let us now see what individual components of the sim racing cockpit to invest in. 

The individual components of the professional Sim Racing Cockpit

To build, customize, and make your home sim racing cockpit unique, we need to start with an analysis of the components: once we have established the goal we want to achieve – maximum graphical output? A focus on physical sensations? – we can decide which components to invest in the most and which to save something on.  

First, what are the individual components of a sim racing cockpit? Here they all are, fundamentals and accessories included:  

  • Frame structure  
  • Driving seat  
  • Computer  
  • One or more monitors   
  • Pedalboard  
  • Steering wheel  
  • Transmission (cloche or robotics)  
  • Electronic steering motor   
  • Decals, trim and various customizations   

If you are considering the possibility of building a sim racing cockpit, you must first choose the level to which you aspire to arrive, from the most amateur to the most professional. Depending on this will obviously change the choice of individual components.  

Moving from the entry level to a less amateur level, however, you need to factor in the purchase of a chassis: this is where the adventure of creating a sim racing rig begins! 

Choosing the frame structure

Just as with all sports, the quality of equipment in eSports depends on the level you want to achieve. Starting with the frame, there are different types on the market, both in terms of size and strength.  

The resistance to forces makes a difference because it is on the frame that technically the force applied on the pedalboard is discharged.   

Also, in the case of a non-static simulator, the frame must be able to withstand lateral forces as well as acceleration and braking.   

Finally, it must be able to support without strain the screen(s) that will be integrated: a frame that has to support three screens will necessarily have to be more performing than one that will support only one. 

Choosing a driver’s seat

The racing sim seat differs from the one used by gamers because it is more enveloping and taller, possibly with an integrated headrest. This is because, in professional sim racing, the driving position changes completely whether we are in a Formula car or a GT car.   

In the first case, in fact, we drive practically lying down, while in the second the position to be held is more like a conventional one: the type of seat to be chosen will be the one most appropriate to one or the other driving style.  

Nothing prevents us, of course, from having more seats or from having one that can adapt to both styles, and perhaps even able to adjust perfectly with pedals and steering wheel as far as distances are concerned (in Wave Italy sim racing cockpits the adjustment between the components is perfect and totally tailor-made). 

Choosing the computer  

If the frame is the backbone of the sim racing rig, the pc is the heart and head.   

The more professional and realistic the desired driving simulation is, the more the pc will have to guarantee significant graphical output. There are computers on the market specifically for eSports and gaming as well as pc’s to be used for work or other activities: the important thing is to have a pc powerful enough to decrease the delay between command and screen display as much as possible, while maintaining high fluidity (an indispensable feature if you want to compete at the highest level in a driving simulation). 

Choosing the screen/monitor for Sim Racing 

As with the choice of pc, the screen must also be selected according to the level of simulation you want to achieve.  

Monitors can change in size but also in shape: in fact, it is well known that curved and wraparound screens are used a lot in gaming nowadays, although there are those who prefer to reproduce the realistic feeling not with a curved screen but with three monitors, one front and two side ones.  

The size of the screen will depend on the space available (see above): considering that the frame itself has a footprint of about two meters long and one meter wide, one must then decide if there is enough space for two possible side monitors as well!  

The monitor is also crucial in relation to the steering wheel: some drivers prefer to put the necessary information (fuel level, lap time, tire wear, adjustment levels, and so on) on the screens, while others prefer viewing on an advanced steering wheel (such as the Wave Impact professional steering wheel).   

Just as with the PC, the monitor can provide a huge difference in performance if it is designed for gaming rather than for more traditional use. On a gaming monitor, usually, the response time is infinitesimal, and racers know well how on a lap of a track – given the same skill of the driver – 1 second makes all the difference in the world. After all, a car running at 300 km/h in one second travels 80 meters!  

So what is the best sim racing monitor in 2023? There is no absolute better screen than any other, but for excellent results one could go for these two solutions:  

  • A curved, wrap-around, realistic screen that is much closer to depth-based human vision than a flat display. Two examples:    
    • Samsung Gaming Monitor CRG9 curved 49”, 5120 x 1440 resolution and screen space equivalent to two 27″ QHD displays side by side, 120 Hz refresh rate.   
    • Samsung Gaming Monitor Odyssey G9 Series – G95T 49″ Dual QHD Curved Gaming Monitor with 1 ms response time and 240 Hz refresh rate.  
  • A triple screen of 32” each and with a high refresh rate of 144Hz or higher.  

Crucial in each case is VRR (variable refresh rate) support via software such as AMD FreeSync or NVIDIA G-Sync to prevent tearing due to the difference between the monitor’s refresh rate and the graphics processor’s refresh rate (a very common issue for those using basic or mid-level rigs). 

Choosing the pedal set

Let us now begin to get more specific by talking about a component that is really crucial for the driving sensation to be extremely realistic: the pedal set.  

An entry level pedalboard (we are talking about products costing up to 150 euros) can already give a good riding feel, however not realistic: the more the pedalboard is for professional use, the more the amount of force to be applied to the pedal increases. Consequently, the frame must also be as strong as possible!  

Pedals are crucial because braking is one of the activities that driver courses (but also safe driving courses, for example) focus on the most.   

Experts know very well that the best and most competitive drivers know how to use the brake very well, more than the accelerator!  

The pedal box must make a realistic and “strong” feeling because on the track the braking comes as late as possible – the driver, in fact, applies sharp and powerful braking with straight wheels to avoid skidding and losing grip on the wheels: the more professional the pedal box is, the more it will be able to withstand, together with the frame, continuous and violent pressures. Taking into account that in a single lap of the track on average a driver will use the brake about 15 times!   

How much does a Sim Racing pedalboard cost? The levels of pedals on the market are of three types:  

1. Entry level – for minimal performance, around 150/200 euros  

2. Medium level – for medium performance, around 700 euros   

3. Pro level – for professional performance, from 1000 euros upwards   

Another important feature when choosing a pedal box is pedal precision and sensitivity. When the car enters a curve, in fact, the pedal is not released completely while still with straight wheels, but the pressure exerted is relieved up to the apex, while still keeping some pressure on the brake from curve entry to the apex.   

This means that the weight of the car is transferred to the front, a feeling that must be felt on the professional sim racing cockpit.  Therefore, the more quality the pedal set is, the more effectively it returns this important feeling.  

Since electronic pedalboards are electronic, only those of great quality will be able to transform a digital signal into a truly progressive, analog sensation. Entry level pedalboards do not have this feature and in fact many sim racers to compensate for this defect prefer to ride barefoot for more sensitivity.  

The third issue related to the choice of pedal set is the adjustability, both at the electronic and physical setting level. The distance between the pedals and the ground clearance-that which allows for maneuvers such as heel to toe/heel to to toe and throttle and brake play-is important to many enthusiasts who, in fact, prefer professional pedals.   

Wave Italy pedals are professional-grade and allow for a wide range of adjustment, as well as being extremely precise and sensitive. 

Choosing the steering wheel

Many sim racing racers when they wish to create their sim racing rig initially put the aesthetic aspect before the technical one.  

The aesthetic part actually has technical implications as well: the round steering wheel, for example, is almost never chosen for racing and Formula cars, just as the carbon or leather or alcantara finish also comes to modify the final driving sensations.  

What really matters about the steering wheel, however, is technical performance: every sim racer should ask himself or herself, “What functions do I want to have on the steering wheel?”   

The answer will depend, as always, on the budget available but also on the type of car simulated. On the steering wheel you can find the ability to split braking between front and rear, the ability to control traction control, adjust the intensity of abs, and so on. The more versatile the steering wheel, the greater the possibility of switching from Formula car simulation to GT car driving simulation.   

How much does a Sim Racing steering wheel cost? Again, the levels are different and range from entry level (about 100 euros) to pro level (1000/2000 euros net of the required finishes).   

The cost changes if you choose to also have a liquid crystal display or not, but also depending on whether you can customize the screens. The Wave Italy professional driving simulation steering wheel, for example, allows the choice of several screens with pre-set data based on the race or training regime.

Chooaing the steering motor

The steering motor is an essential element: buying a basic/medium level steering wheel the motor is usually included, unlike a professional one that usually does not include it, just to leave the choice to the buyer.  

It should still be taken into account because in the sim racing rig it is the element that conveys physical sensations. Let’s take an example: if the car ends up on a curb, the blow can be felt on the steering wheel and it changes according to the type of impact that took place, both as force and angle, and this sensation is given precisely by the steering motor.  

We go so far as to say that the steering motor is even more important than the steering wheel: the steering wheel changes the feel at the level of grip and ergonomics, yes, but it is the steering motor that exactly reproduces the forces that the simulated car applies on the steering wheel.  

That is why, if it is not integrated with the steering wheel itself, you have to spend about 200 euros and up for the steering motor. 

Choosing the gearbox

The manual transmission is the least important accessory for a simulated driving rig because usually the sim racing rig uses cars with an automatic or robotic transmission with paddles on the steering wheel.  

Those who want it, therefore, add it to the sim racing cockpit only for personal pleasure and not to increase performance or realism.   

Customizing the Sim Racing Cockpit, the aesthet appearance

Whether you choose to build your own driving rig from scratch or decide to purchase a turnkey professional sim racing cockpit like those from Wave Italy, the final part of the process is customization.   

Starting with monitor size and performance, one can move to the aesthetic basis and choose, for example, solutions that hide cables and favor aesthetic cleanliness.   

Logos, designs and graphic art can then be applied to the sim racing cockpit; the driver’s seat can be upholstered in leather, technical fabric or other specific materials, even with embroidered logos; the dashboard itself can be made of leather, carbon, alcantara.   

Not to mention the body, which can be made of fiberglass or carbon and can have different colors and decorations.   

In short, for true enthusiasts, even the eye wants its part, and how! 

Building a Sim Racing Cockpit from scratch: advantages and disadvantages

After all this long way, we can finally list the advantages and disadvantages of building a realistic DIY sim racing cockpit from scratch.   

There are two main advantages: building a rig yourself saves some money financially and certainly brings great satisfaction, as in all DIY work.   

The disadvantages, however, for true enthusiasts can be several and definitely decisive:  

  • Problems at the electronic level during initial set-up  
  • Incompatibility between parts produced by different manufacturers  
  • Connection problems between the various parts of the simulator  
  • Lack of support for malfunctioning of the various parts   

A sim racing rig is given, yes, by a set of components, but they must be able to talk to each other perfectly in harmony (at the physical level but especially at the electronic level) in order to give in return professional performance bordering on perfection (and if you really want to compete, this is what you must aim for!).  

What happens when two parts of the DIY rig do not work in perfect harmony?  

Let’s take an example: due to minor electromagnetic interference impacting the operation of the hardware, such as on the pedals, the brake might activate almost imperceptibly even if it is not pressed, altering racing performance appreciably.   

Imagine being on a straight and pushing to reach top speed at that point: a small electromagnetic interference-caused perhaps by a cable running in the wrong place-could lead you to drops on top speed of perhaps as little as 5km/h, resulting in crucial lap performance.  

That’s why a turnkey professional sim racing cockpit may be a choice worth considering and definitely beneficial if your desire is to compete to the max, without risking missing something along the way while setting up your DIY sim racing rig.   

An added advantage? The always-guaranteed service and especially the guarantee of technical intervention or replacement of malfunctioning parts. And, most importantly, technical updates always included in the technical support!  

Want to try and test our sim racing cockpits with your own hands? Find out how in our Racing Simulation Center!

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