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How To: H-Shifters in SimRacing

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Many roads lead to the goal: SimRacing offers the possibility to try out and learn different driving techniques to become fast. One of the most difficult of these techniques is driving with a completely manual transmission – likely in part because this is no longer used in modern race cars. Still, learning to drive with three pedals can be worthwhile – for example, for the Community Trophy on the Road 2 SimRacing Expo 2022.

Sequential gearshifts have become an integral part of motorsport: almost all modern racing series use paddle shifters on the steering wheel, with a few outliers such as the Australian Supercars series still relying on a gearshift, but this also operates a sequential gearbox. At most, historical series still drive completely manually, and this is also reflected in SimRacing.

Many pedals are now offered as sets of two, the clutch is often only an option – accordingly, many rigs only have two pedals. This makes sense especially in the Esports sector, where modern cars, especially GT3 cars, are usually driven. The clutch is only needed for launching, and there are analog clutch paddles on the steering wheel as an alternative.

If you consider the shifting process with clutch and manual transmission, it quickly becomes clear why it has been replaced by shift paddles. The driver no longer has to take his hands off the steering wheel and is effectively unable to mis-shift because the electronics prevent the engine from overrevving. So the classic H-shift is essentially only relevant to enthusiasts of historic content. But how exactly does it work? SimRacing Unlimited explains it to you.


Upshifting with manual transmission is the relatively easier part of driving with H-shift. It works like in normal road traffic:

  • RPM reach the shift point
  • the driver takes their foot off the accelerator and presses the clutch at the same time
  • in the meantime, the next gear is engaged with the shift lever
  • the clutch is released, the driver steps on the gas again

The process should be as fast as possible in order to minimize the interruption in propulsion.


This is where it gets tricky: Downshifting at racing speed works differently than in road traffic and also differs from sequential downshifting. All three pedals now need to be operated with just two feet. Here’s what happens during downshifting:

  • the driver brakes (with their right foot) and lets the revs fall into the right range – not low enough that the rear wheels want to spin slower and the car becomes unstable, but not high enough that the engine overrevs when downshifting
  • to change gears, they now press the clutch while the right foot continues to brake, but at the same time their heel briefly pushes the throttle to adjust the revs so that the transition to the lower gear happens more smoothly. You do not have to select the gear before the one you are in but can skip gears as well

This process requires a lot of coordination of movements, which is difficult to achieve, especially at the beginning of the learning process. Therefore, it is recommended to drive a slower vehicle which has a longer braking phase, so you have enough time to think about the movements. The shorter the time needed for downshifting, for example in a Formula 1 car of the early 1990s, the more the sequence should be second nature. To get a sense for the correct RPM, watching a video of the respective car being raced can help so you can eventually shift by ear.

The first round of the SimRacing Community Trophy, the finals of which will be held at the ADAC SimRacing Expo 2022, was contested in DTM cars from the 1992 season that use a manual transmission – those who also shift manually in such cars can potentially go faster. And if the Esports scene should also spread into the historical field, it will also be an advantage to master the technology.