The Lost Art of Using An H-Shifter

The Lost Art of Using An H-Shifter.jpg
Recreating the feel of a real race car is the core principle of sim racing, and the advancements in equipment reflect this with each new piece that is released: Better force feedback, racing-grade pedals – but as modern race cars usually do not have manual shifters anymore, lots of sim rigs do not either. As a result, driving with a fully manual transmission has become somewhat of a lost art.

Granted, the title is a bit overly-dramatic, but at least it holds true when looking at most modern sims and esports that tends to get focused on. These use modern cars that have paddle shifters on their wheels, the GT3 class being a prime example of this. Some do not even use a clutch for starts anymore, and while others do, analog clutch paddles do the job on the wheel as well. Two-pedal rig setups are no rarity because of this.

It is likely because of this that there are not too many dedicated shifters on the sim racing market. There are offerings by Fanatec, Thrustmaster, Logitech and a few smaller manufacturers, but the choice sim racers get is far from the enormous selection of pedal sets, for example. Still, for enthusiasts of motorsports history (like the author), H-shifters are an essential part of the experience in order to drive older vehicles the way they were meant to be driven.

While using paddles makes shifting gears easier and is absolutely impossible to imagine not doing in a modern F1 rocketship or a GT3, it does not compare to the feel of muscling around an older race car while using three pedals and a manual shifter. It is quite literally a handful, as well as a bit of a workout. Not to mention the coordination part – if you have never done it before, learning to use all three pedals is quite the process, especially on downshifts.

The upshifts are fairly straight-forward, as lifting your right foot off the throttle while pressing the clutch and selecting the next gear is relatively easy. However, using three pedals with just two feet is more challenging: Braking with your right foot (as opposed to the left foot normally used these days in modern race cars), waiting for the revs to drop enough, then pressing the clutch while using your heel to blip the throttle in order to rev-match and selecting a lower gear, sometimes even going down two at a time – it is easy to see why they prefer paddles instead of heel-toeing their way around the track.

Of course, eliminating the process described above makes downshifts considerably less complicated. But to get more immersed in a car that actually has this kind of transmission, nothing beats trying to learn this dance on the pedals. Modern sims offer plenty of vintage content, be it Assetto Corsa via mods, rFactor2 or Automobilista 2 – it is unlikely to form the base of an esports competition, but if you can find a one-off event or a league using cars with a fully manual transmission, it is worth a closer look. A word of warning, though: You might become hooked.

What is your opinion on shifters in sim racing? Have you bothered with learning how to use them for vintage cars? Let us know in the comments!
About author
Yannik Haustein
Lifelong motorsport enthusiast and sim racing aficionado, walking racing history encyclopedia.

Sim racing editor, streamer and one half of the SimRacing Buddies podcast (warning, German!).

Heel & Toe Gang 4 life :D

Comments

Are there any really good feeling H-pattern shifters for sim racing that are not as crazy expensive as the pro sim h-pattern shifter? (I am currently using a thrustmaster TH8A) Also, what manual cars would you guys recommend driving in Assetto Corsa, (mods ok) I have trouble deciding what to drive when it comes to manual cars.
 
Premium
If the object was to make those of us who have an H-pattern shifter feel like an antique...

Mission accomplished!

Asking whether a person has taken the time to learn how to shift an H pattern shifter in a sim jumps over the idea that many of us have learned to drive sticks on real cars.

Then taking two paragraphs to describe what is involved in using an H pattern shifter....

Oh WOW! Well a car is considered an antique once it is older than 45, so I guess it fits.

And yeah, I bit the bullet on this one. Being an antique has some advantages I guess. I'm still waiting for the hydraulic lockout attachment for it, if they ever get that first production run out.

I love rowing gears in Group B Rally cars.
Hpatternshift_8043.jpg
 
Last edited:
Premium
I need a better shifter than the TH8A. It's serviceable, and it is excellent for coordinating my shifting. But the feel is just lacking, and that is inspite of its metallic design.

I would love that real manual transmission Quaife unit. But I ain't got the coin for it. I need something man with wife priced. LOL
 
Asking whether a person has taken the time to learn how to shift an H pattern shifter in a sim jumps over the idea that many of us have learned to drive sticks on real cars.
I wonder how that is in the US

I need a better shifter than the TH8A. It's serviceable, and it is excellent for coordinating my shifting. But the feel is just lacking, and that is inspite of its metallic design.

Worked great for me too, but yeah, not the best. I prefer my current SQ 1.5 over it + the versatility. But yeah, good, but not great.
 
Last edited:
Shifting simulation accuracy is a tricky problem, because part of a problem is lack of game shifters with actual mechanical feedback. As far as I know, in some real life configurations you can't even move lever into gear or out of it, unless you time/clutch correctly, or bend something. So I guess lack of widespread hardware is part of a problem.

However, what surprises me is how few games actually simulate even the sequential shifting correctly. For example, one of the things that amazed me in iRacing is shifting in Skip Barber, where you can't change gear if there's too much effective torque (so you have to lift). And there are plenty of older series where there was no electronic lift aid with sequential, yet only few games try to replicate that.
 
Last edited:
In my application paddle shifting I feel makes me faster. I am of the school of thinking that shifting on the steering wheel is an advancement in racing. I am also of the school of thinking that every driver simply wants to go faster. So I feel that drivers in the 1960's & 70's would want the pinnacle of the evolution of shifting. Ergo, paddle shifting floats this racers boat.
 
What a coincidence, I de-mounted my pedals just yesterday, in order to put the gas pedal closer to the brake pedal. I want to learn heel-toeing. I work as a driving/traffic instructor for both cars and motorcycles, so I am very interested in the realism aspect of simracing. But I have no idea how to heel-toe. I mean, in a modern road car, it isn't needed of course...

And my first attempt yesterday? Disaster. I have no idea how to do this. Is this how all my pupils feel when they drive a manual car for the first time, and when they say that they will never learn? Probably :D
I usually encourage them to drive automatic instead. "It's 2022 for gods sake, you don't need to drive manual anymore, skip it completely". Please, don't say this to me now, I want to learn, anyone have any tips for me? I feel like my feet hurts a lot, do I need shoes for this? :geek:

WhatsApp Image 2022-04-11 at 15.19.22.jpeg
 
Premium
Shifting simulation accuracy is a tricky problem, because part of a problem is lack of game shifters with actual mechanical feedback. As far as I know, in some real life configurations you can't even move lever into gear or out of it, unless you time/clutch correctly, or bend something. So I guess lack of widespread hardware is part of a problem.
Prosim has a completely developed and ready for production hydraulic lockout that maps to your clutch pedal to adjust the force needed to change gears.

I'm on the preorder list for it. However I got on that list in January of 2021 and Prosim has stated that they are dependent on manufacturing that isn't available yet and there stuck in a holding pattern waiting for production.
 
Prosim has a completely developed and ready for production hydraulic lockout that maps to your clutch pedal to adjust the force needed to change gears.

I'm on the preorder list for it. However I got on that list in January of 2021 and Prosim has stated that they are dependent on manufacturing that isn't available yet and there stuck in a holding pattern waiting for production.
that's awesome - but how many games will actually support the logic to simulate it more or less correctly, per car?
 
After racing Lotus T98 and Sauber C9 in AC and rallying group B in Dirt Rally 1, I have built an opinion that no car is too fast for manual H pattern and a clutch. But it just changes the driving itself to tiny bit slower. Also my opinion - that gain of speed is nothing in comparison to loss of spirit and soul.

There are two camps of racers. Those who just want to go fast and quick, and those who also wants it to be an experience. Unfortunately racing is brutally straight forward about going quick, and only going quick. That is also a reason why racing as a sport slowly tightening the loop around its neck. In a struggle to cut off every single millionth of a second expenses are rising, imperfect details such as humans are becoming less significant for the result.

To me personally it is amazing how little REAL interest racing and cars has today. But at the same time "normie" drivers are raving about automatic gearboxes, and driverless cars. I don't know how it happened. Maybe traffic jams literally turned our society out of whack ? Because thats sincerely one time manual is terrible.
 
Premium
that's awesome - but how many games will actually support the logic to simulate it more or less correctly, per car?

The hydraulic lockout software is simply mapped to the clutch pedal position.
The games don't need to do anything.

It's like calibrating your 0-100% on your brakes.

Just calibrate when the clutch starts to disengage and when it is completely disengaged.
Done for all games that use a clutch pedal.
 
I'm using H-gear stick when possible, and sometimes even quirckd paddle sim cars to H-pattern mapping,
missing it just for my coffee maker.

For example. an incident six years ago where I rented a Huracan for track event. Alluded sarcastically about the car's alleged to the instructor regarding the marketing link tik to the Miura with a question of, "why not H-Gear?"
Then to driv3 home and try it out in GTR2, rF2 and AC mods, to find out that it then went really well with my T8HA, however, it would have felt a tooth more real without 4WD.
 
Last edited:

Latest News

Article information

Author
Yannik Haustein
Article read time
3 min read
Views
35,706
Comments
174
Last update

What would be the ideal raceday for you to join our Club Races?

  • Monday

    Votes: 12 13.6%
  • Tuesday

    Votes: 9 10.2%
  • Wednesday

    Votes: 10 11.4%
  • Thursday

    Votes: 11 12.5%
  • Friday

    Votes: 34 38.6%
  • Saturday

    Votes: 48 54.5%
  • Sunday

    Votes: 35 39.8%
Back
Top