IGuides & Hardware

SimRacing Hardware Quickly Explained: Wheel Base

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You want to follow in the virtual footsteps of Max Verstappen and Lando Norris? Your interest in SimRacing has been aroused recently? Just like a real racer, equipment plays an important role in SimRacing, so you can have as much fun as possible and get your best possible performance. In this article we will take a quick and compact look at the heart of the SimRacing rig – the wheel base – and take a look under the hood.

The possibilities to transmit haptic feedback in the racing simulator are limited. Since there are no G-forces acting like in a real racing car, we have to make do with information from pedals, wheel base, steering wheel and in special cases via a motion system. This makes it all the more important that this feedback reaches us as SimRacers in as much detail as possible so that we can feel grip, road surfaces, bumps and collisions.

Perfect start

The Wheel Base plays a decisive role as steering unit and heart of the SimRacing Rig. The wheel base is the product behind the steering wheel in which electric motors or a belt drive and complex electronic systems are installed. Force Feedback (FFB) is the application of forces to the steering wheel to simulate the reaction of real vehicle components.

What I find exciting is that most manufacturers work with a 20-year-old force feedback technology in which forces and vibrations are generated from a selection of profiles and a limited library of haptic effects. This technology had to take into account the processing power at that time, which means that force feedback technology today has far more potential to reproduce the physics from racing games than we can imagine.

Nevertheless, SimRacers nowadays have a lot of possibilities in the wheel base segment. Basically, the more expensive the product, the higher the quality of the built-in technology. From simple electric motors and gear drives, belt drives and servo motors to the so-called Direct Drive models, you are spoilt for choice. You also have to pay attention to which steering wheels and which systems the respective wheel base is compatible with. The possible steering angles also differ depending on the wheel base.

– Fanatec CSL Elite Wheel Base V1.1 (UVP 349,95€)
Thrustmaster T300 RS * (Bundle; UVP 399,99€)
– Fanatec ClubSport Wheel Base V2.5 (UVP 549,95€)
Thrustmaster TS-XW Racer Sparco P310 Competition Mod * (Bundle; UVP 649,99€)

For SimRacing newcomers, Logitech G offers the Logitech G923 – paired with steering wheel and pedals. It promises to be the first steering wheel unit to take advantage of the new generation of force feedback software technology with TRUEFORCE – provided the racing game supports it. Logitech G relies on two motors and one gear drive. This drive allows the steering wheel to be offered at a comparatively low price, but it is also not exactly quiet and not as precise as more expensive models. Thrustmaster also plays in this price segment and offers the Thrustmaster T150 PRO ForceFeedback.

Thrustmaster T150 PRO ForceFeedback * (Bundle; UVP 249,99€)
Logitech G923 * (Bundle; UVP 388,95€)

Full power with belt drive

Belt-driven steering units offer more smooth running and performance than their gear-driven counterparts. Inside the Thrustmaster T300 RS, for example, a powerful brushless servo motor rotates together with a double belt mechanism.

Fanatec was one of the first companies to use a belt drive and currently has two products in this segment in its portfolio: the CSL Elite Wheel Base and the ClubSport Wheel Base V2.5. The inner workings of the CSL Elite Wheel Base deliver six Newton meters to the steering axle and can therefore guarantee an even power development as well as a precise and fast response without dead centers for all steering wheels of the CSL and ClubSport series. Large ball bearings also ensure low friction. The power of the servo motor does, however, provide audible ventilation, but this is to be expected in view of the long service life of the motor.

At the upper end of this segment is the Fanatec ClubSport Wheel Base V2.5. The belt drive with large ball bearings provides strong and fast force feedback effects. Due to the modular system Fanatec offers you the choice between different steering wheels that fit on the wheel bases.

In addition, for a vibration-free setup it is essential that the Wheel Base is firmly bolted to the frame of a racing seat. Alternatively, you can use a table clamp to mount the Wheel Base on a desk.

High-end in every aspect

The ultimate in the wheel base segment are the so-called direct-drive wheel bases. They offer the most authentic and precise driving experience on a racing simulator and are used by most professional racers and e-sports racing experts. The handlebars are directly connected to a large electric motor, allowing extremely fast power and data transfer. You can now feel every bump.

The possible torque is much higher than with belt driven wheel bases and requires responsible use. Especially in case of collisions with your virtual car or an impact you have to be careful – just like with a real steering wheel.

– VRS DirectForce Pro Wheel Base (UVP 899,99€)
– AccuForce Pro V2 (UVP 999,00$)
– Fanatec Podium Wheel Base DD1 (UVP 1.199,95€)
– SIMUCUBE 2 Sport (UVP 1.270,00€)
– SIMUCUBE 2 Pro (UVP 1.470,00€)
– Fanatec Podium Wheel Base DD2 (UVP 1.799,95€)
– SIMUCUBE 2 Ultimate (UVP 3.170,00€)

With its podium series, Fanatec measures itself in the high-end category against brands such as Simucube, AccuForce and the newcomer VRS, which were previously only known for SimRacing coaching. However, with the Fanatec Podium DD 1 and DD2, the manufacturer from Landshut has the only models that are seamlessly compatible with all PS4 and PS4 Pro systems. The engine reaches peak torques of 20 Newton meters for the DD1 model and 25 Newton meters for the DD2 version, comparable to the torque of most real racing cars with power steering.

The Finnish manufacturer Granite Devices with its Simucube brand is considered an expert in this segment. Within the SIMUCUBE 2 product range, you can choose between three options: Sport, Pro and Ultimate. The torque here ranges from 17 to a proud 32 Newton meters. Manufacturers such as AccuForce and Virtual Racing School also have their own steering units with direct drive, but are not as widespread as Fanatec and Simucube.

So, if you are a SimRacing enthusiast who wants to get the most realistic racing experience possible and train for real test and race applications like I do, investing in a wheel base with direct drive makes perfect sense. If the high price is still a deterrent, there is nothing wrong with a belt driven wheel base. For newcomers I recommend a Logitech G923 or Thrustmaster model for the SimRacing entry.