The Best Beginner’s Guide to Sim Racing in 2024

Sim racing received a huge number of players and viewers during the lockdown of 2020. With ‘real’ motorsport closed for a few months. It was the only way for drivers and racing fans alike to get their fix. People like Jimmy Broadbent and Jardier watched as their viewership increased. With both making it into reality, something that hadn’t been possible before. The Drive to Survive show also boosted the number of people interested in racing due to the drama and on track action.

I built a gaming PC and a cheap rig to experience the fun for myself and have recently picked it up again. So, I thought it would be helpful for the next Hamiltons and Verstappens on how to get going with sim racing on a relatively small budget.

Sim racing isn’t cheap, but this how to do it on a budget.

I also want to preface this is mostly from a European perspective. If you enjoy Indy Car or Nascar the below guide should still be relevant.

Platform

If you already have the following you are all set for platform requirements:

  • Xbox Series X/S
  • PlayStation 5
  • Gaming PC

These will be viable for the next few years, though a Gaming PC can last a lot longer. However, if you have the following:

  • Xbox One
  • PlayStation 4
  • None of the Above

You should look at either upgrading to a newer version or look at building a PC. I opted for building a PC. The requirements for a sim racing PC aren’t crazy. And you should be able to get hold of the components far cheaper than at the start of the decade. The reason I opted for a PC is the longevity of it. My PC though not high spec by any means, can still play the current Sim racing titles at close to Ultra settings and a constant frame rate, which is the most important factor.

Xbox or PlayStation?

If you are not technically minded you can buy a prebuilt machine, the minimum specs I would recommend are:

  • CPU: AMD Ryzen 5, 7, 9 or Intel i5, i7, i9
  • RAM: 16GB +
  • Hard Drive: 1TB SSD, (You will want to keep your SSD for the Sim racing titles, though a second HDD is preferable)
  • GPU: At least a 4GB Video Card, I run a GTX-1080, which is more than enough for most titles.
  • Monitor: Dependant on your GPU, at least a 23in screen. With a high refresh rate over resolution.

Should You Buy Second Hand?

Apart from the monitor, each component has an increased chance of failure depending on its age. Buying second hand also runs the risk of the component being ran outside its operating threshold. Such as the CPU being overclocked, which results in a faster processor but increased stress. This is the same whether you buy a second-hand computer or second-hand components. If you are lucky you can pick up a bargain, and if not, you’ve wasted your money. Buy brand new if possible and with the highest specs you can afford. I’ve seen some good spec PCs for around £500 +. If you can’t afford that go console.

PlayStation or Xbox?

Xbox or PlayStation?

Both consoles have access to some of the best Sim racers:

  • Assetto Corsa
  • Assetto Corsa Competizione
  • F1

However, they each have their console exclusives:

  • Xbox: Forza (PC as well)
  • PlayStation: Gran Turismo

If you prefer realism over everything else, go for the PlayStation ecosystem. Nevertheless, if you already invested in the Xbox ecosystem, you are only missing out on one Sim racing game.

Budget for around £600 ($750).

Wheel & Pedals

steering wheel pedals

The minimum you need for a wheel is force feedback. It allows you to feel the vibrations of what is happening on track. There are three types:

  • Steering force with gears
  • Fast Belt drives
  • Direct Drive

Direct drives are the most expensive and powerful, while the other two are relatively cheap. Check out this article for more information. Most budget wheels will have either gears or belt drives. Either are fine and there is very little reason as a beginner to invest in a direct drive wheel. However, if you didn’t spend any money buying a new PC/console, this is where you can dump most of your cash.

The main brands in the Wheel and Pedals market are:

  • Logitech
  • Thrustmaster
  • Moza

Logitech is the budget brand, however, don’t let that fool you. There wheels are still brilliant, and I’ve managed well with just a Logitech wheel and pedal set. The main difference is that the wheelbase cannot be removed from the wheel. So, you are stuck with the default wheel. Unless you pull it apart and mess around with the innards. Thrustmaster and Moza both offer wheels and wheelbases so that you can choose a wheel that matches the discipline you are racing in.

I bought (second-hand) a G92 with both a gear shift and pedals for under £200. I’ve had it for over three years, and it is still going strong.

Rig

Sim Racing rig

A rig positions the wheel and pedals in a comfortable way. The simplest rigs can be a desk where you clamp on the wheel. While the more expensive rigs can include motion capabilities that move while you race round a track.

If you have a desk already it is worth seeing if you can position the wheel and pedals in a comfortable way. This will save you more money that you can spend on other elements of sim racing. But, if you have bought a direct drive wheel, you will need a rig that was built for sim racing. These types of wheels have a huge amount of torque which can destroy unstable or weak rigs.

For non-direct drive wheels, I’d recommend the XR Racing Rig Wheel, it’s at a great price point and is sturdy enough to handle the vibrations put through it. It also can be folded away when not in use.

For direct drive I’d recommend an aluminium profile racing rig. These are strong and sturdy and can stay rigid while the direct drive wheel provides force feedback. This article (simracingsetup.com) provides an overview of some good options.

For entry level I’d put aside £100 for a decent entry level rig.

Sim Racing Games

There are a few sim racing games you need to own. Each has it’s pros and cons. Which I will only briefly describe here.

Assetto Corsa

A vast variety of vehicles and tracks are available for you to race. There are even more which you can download online via modders. The interface is dated, however there is a AC Content manager that you can download that can be used to launch the game which looks far better. It still has an active following and you will easily find races to participate in. It has a lacklustre career mode. But the racing is awesome and fast.

Assetto Corsa Competizione

Assetto Cora Competizione - Racing in Brandshatch
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