Getting into Sim Drifting

I’ve gotten a TON of people saying that they would get into sim racing if it wasn’t the the high cost of entry. A great setup will cost a lot of money, but it’s possible to get started and gradually upgrade your rig. Here’s a baseline of how to incrementally getting into things.

Don’t I need a PC?

Yes. The PlayStation and Xbox versions of Assetto Corsa do not support mods. Here are the system requirements for Assetto Corsa as a baseline. For the computer illiterate, basically any laptop/computer in the passed decade can run this game. In fact, one of my spare laptops from 2013 runs the game for live streams.

Stage 0 – PC and Controller ($8-$500)

If you already have a PC and a gaming console, you can already get started. If you’re patient, I’ve seen the humble bundle do as low as $8 for Assetto. If you have a PlayStation, here’s how to hook up the controller to your PC. Xbox controllers hook up to windows as is but here’s a guide for settings. Or just pick up this USB xbox controller for windows.

For a PC, I suggest going to Facebook market place and picking up a used unit for cheap. If you have the coin, there are many prebuilt companies that make good machines. I don’t recommend going with Dell or HP as they don’t have the best deals. I also suggest staying away from laptops as they do not upgrade. But, if you need something for now, basically any PC will do.

Stage 1 – Wheels, shifters, and pedals ($300+)

Once you get the basics out of the way, the controller will frustrate you and you’ll want more. There’s 3 options, cheap, good, and stupid good. Those are gear drive wheels, belt drive, and direct drive respectively. Price ranges are $300, ~$800, ~$1,500+ (again, respectively).

Gear Drive – Gear drive units are garbage but where most people start. The shifter and pedals are cheap and usable when you upgrade the wheel. Gear drive wheels tend to not be able to keep up with quick lock-to-lock movements so you’ll wind up “helping” the wheel. Especially if you install a larger aftermarket wheel. Logitech G923 (with shifter)and thrustmaster T150s are in this range.

Belt Drive – These are the Thrustmaster T300 (with shifter)or the Fanatec CSL Elite (uh, go to their website, it’s a mess to explain). These units give great force feedback and are in a very affordable price range. This is the minimum range I would suggest. You don’t NEED beyond this.

Direct Drive – Fanatec is in the middle of releasing their $400 (shipped) “CSL direct drive base”. With their (needlessly expensive) power brick upgrade, it blows the belt drive units out of the water and likely will become the industry standard. The existing direct drive units are amazing but are also at least 3x the cost. Worth noting that the Fanatec units do not come with steering wheels and you NEED their proprietary wheels because that’s what allows you to change settings and jazz. It’s stupid. But also, a full fanatec setup with shifter and pedals will go beyond $1k.

Stage 2 – VR or triple monitors ($300-$500)

To start – VR is the way to go if you want to better your IRL driving. But your PC will need to be up to very up to date and many people either can’t get used to it (vomit town) or argue that triple monitors are better (it’s not).

VR headsets – Hands down the best bang for the buck is a quest 2. If you can find used oculus rift or quest 1s for cheaper, I still consider the quest 2 worth the extra money. 90FPS mode has been unlocked and 120 is on the way. The link cable has been ironed out and only 1 step more than the rift to hook up to a PC. On top of that, if you have a baller wifi router, you can go wireless.

Triple screens – While you can find stands for $50, get at least a sturdy stand like this one. You CAN use the regular stands but positioning them on a table becomes annoying. For monitors, you can get some as cheap as $100 per screen but generally have bad refresh rates (the linked ones are 75hz) and not very large. You can find them used for cheap as well. Just try to keep them to the same size. The total cost of these are generally the same or more than just getting a VR headset. It is worth noting that triple screens are much less demanding on your system than VR.

Stage 3 – Rumblers, wind, and motion rigs ($$$$$$)

As most people won’t get to this point, I’ll only lightly touch on it. I personally use dual seat shakers and pedal rumblers powered by an arduino with simhub. I also have some PC fans hooked up to simulate side to side wind. The most I got out of it was the seat rumblers as it made it easier to tell engine RPM without having to look at it. The wind is just nice. The pedal shakers are meh.

For a motion rig, you can DIY for as little as $1k but DofReality sells some kits for $2k+. I would really like to try it out myself but my rig is compact and wouldn’t take this addition well.

Summary

If you don’t already have a PC, you can get into the sim drift world for about $600 minimum ($300 for the G923 and assuming you can find a used PC on FB market place for another $300). If you’re super strapped for cash, you can start with a controller for just the cost of a used PC.

While the total cost will be over $2,000, a serious rig can start small and upgrade as you can afford it. Seeing the incremental jumps in ability will also be very rewarding.

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