If you have just discovered sim racing then you will be aware that there are thousands of hardware options out there. Making the right choices early on can save you a considerable amount of money down the line. Here is what I have learned from my hardware journey.

Disclaimer -
This is just my opinion and the needs and requirements of individuals vary depending on what they want from a sim racing rig. Also, i'm not providing detailed buying guides for each component i'm trying to focus on the order in which I recommend to upgrade your equipment.

If like me you found sim racing though your love of motorsport then it is safe to assume that you have an itch that needs to be scratched and the only way you will be able to get rid of that itch is to go racing. The good news is, despite all of the options and thousands of Euros you could spend on a rig, you don't really need to.

I started on an Amiga with a joystick, moving then to a PC with a keyboard before graduating to a controller. It stayed that way for about ten years before I eventually got my first wheel. Yes, getting the wheel was amazing but I still had a lot of fun using my trusty playstation controller. This guide is for those of you which have decided to take the plunge and start building a rig. What bits should you buy and in what order.

Lets assume a few of things before we start:
  1. You already own a basic/entry level wheel and pedals and are thinking about what to upgrade next
  2. That you predominantly do tarmac road racing. (I will cover rally, drift and other forms of racing at the end)
  3. You're in this for the long haul and you well and truly have caught the sim racing bug.
  4. You already own a computer or console capable of handling sim racing
  5. You can't just dump €10k-€15k on a new rig all at once
  6. You are looking to buy the best you can afford in each category to avoid constant upgrades

OK let's go...

I have done it all when it comes to attaching wheels to various desks, wheel stands, and cockpits but knowing what I know now, I would have saved myself a lot of time and money if I just went for a proper cockpit from the off. Trust me when I say it's not particularly fun moving kit from cockpit to cockpit every time you upgrade. So my advice would be find a sturdy cockpit that will grow with your needs.

Simlab p1x.jpg

Pictured above - Simlab P1-X the OG sturdy cockpit

You don't need to spend thousands on this either. Like I said in my Next Level Racing F-GT Elite Review you can pick up very sturdy aluminium profile rigs for around €300 - €400. In principle these rigs are similar in nature to the likes of the NLR F-GT Elite and Simlab P1-X but what you might not get with the cheaper versions are the some of the attention to detail pieces like custom end caps, anodised aluminium profile and custom parts for mounting wheels and pedals.

You don't have to buy an aluminium cockpit to get a sturdy build. The likes of GT Omega, RaceX and TrackRacer all offer sturdy solutions which don't require a lot of effort to put together. However, it must be said that all three of those brands offer Aluminium profile rigs at the top end of their portfolio. This tells you everything you need to know about why aluminium profile is so highly regarded.

So it's for you to decide which features are of most importance for you. One thing you will get with a sturdy rig though is a strong build capable of handling any of your future purchases such as a direct drive wheelbase or load cell pedals.

Tips for choosing a cockpit:
  1. Prioritise rigidity and sturdiness over aesthetics. Future you will be grateful.
  2. If you like driving a variety of cars try to find something with adjustable seating positions
  3. Don't rule out Aluminium profile, it's easier to put together than you think
  4. Make sure to buy a seat that you will be comfortable with. Racing seats look cool but can be quite uncomfortable

2. A MONITOR (or other viewing solution)

OK, hear me out. I know this might not be the second thing on most of your lists but for me, upgrading from a 21 inch office hand-me-down monitor to a 32 inch second hand TV was massive. The immersion factor went through the roof as there was just more screen real estate to focus on. But if I thought that upgrade was good, then nothing could have prepared me for the upgrade I got to an ultra-wide monitor.

Benq Ultrawide.jpg

Pictured above - Benq 35 Inch Ultrawide

Currently I am using the Benq 35 inch ultra-wide and it has been a revelation for me. I have been using this screen for a couple of years in conjunction with entry level, mid-range and top end wheels and pedals, and honestly it's been the biggest factor in increasing immersion.

Now, I said "Monitor or other viewing solution". I get that it will be difficult for people to commit to something like a triple screen set up or VR just off the back of some comments they have seen online. However, these days it's not too difficult to find a sim racing centre or VR experience in a commercial district of most larger towns and cities (at least here in the UK). So you can try this stuff before you buy it.

Tips for choosing your viewing solution:
My advice is. If you can go and try out all solutions. Ultra-wide monitor, Triple Screen & VR and decide which you like best. Once you have made your mind up make this the next thing on your list of upgrades. I would argue all day long that you will have more fun with a Logitech G29 and triple screen/VR than you will with a Simucube 2 Pro and a 21 inch office Hand-me-down


This wont be the first time you have heard this but i'll say it again for good measure. A decent set of pedals will not only give you better consistency but also are probably the single piece of equipment that might actually make you faster. I didn't really believe it when I heard people say this but i'm sorry to report it's true.

Just to make sure we are all on the same page at this point. We are really talking about the brake pedal. While a decent accelerator and clutch are important it's ultimately the brake pedal where you will find the gains and increased immersion.

I went from the Logitech g27 pedals with basically no resistance at all, to a set of CSL pedals, then later with the load cell add on. The difference between the two was huge. The most major difference was the fact I could leave the rig for a week or two and come back and get straight on the pace without having to really do any warm up.

Venym Atrax Pedals.jpg

Pictured above - Venym Atrax 3 Peadls

Now fast forward to just a couple of months ago when I got hold of a set of Venym Atrax 3 pedals to test for an RD review (coming soon by the way) and the leap in quality from the Fanatec pedals is just mind blowing. I have the load cell on the Venyms set to 100KG which is getting on for proper race car levels of resistance @Yannik Haustein is running his at 130KG!!

Those numbers are impressive but honestly it's just taking that experience I had moving up from the Logitech to Fanatec pedals and dialling it up by about twenty times. The major difference now is that I am way more consistent over the course of a longer race. I also found myself being a lot more confident under braking which ultimately resulted in quicker lap times.

Tips for buying pedals:
  1. Yes maximum resistance (measured in KG) is important, it's not the only thing to consider
  2. Materials used for construction. You could be putting upwards of 100KG of pressure on the pedal, make sure they aren't built from cheap parts
  3. Mounting solutions. You will thank me later for this. Make sure you get something which is both easy to mount and has options for various pedal plates and cockpits.
4. Wheel Base

Finally, it's time for nice new wheel base. You could argue that this should appear higher up the list and I wouldn't disagree particularly, especially with the likes of Fanatec producing affordable Direct Drive wheel bases at a fraction of the cost of what they once were.

CSL DD.jpg

Pictured above - Fanatec CSL DD

However, I think if you are at the beginning of your journey and you really are in this for the long haul then I stand by my order laid out above. The reason being is that we are still just talking about the wheelbase here. So lets assume you have decided you want a DD wheel base, you still need to buy a wheel. If you're a dumb dumb like me then you will stretch your budget to buy the cheapest wheel you can just so you can experience the shiny new wheelbase, and that is simply not doing your new piece of kit justice.

But think of it this way. If you followed my order you will have a sturdy cockpit capable of handling such forces being exerted by the DD wheel. You will have a viewing solution which matches the level of immersion your new DD wheel offers. And you will have already adjusted to your new pedals which have improved your lap times and consistency.

In my opinion, the wheel base is the icing on the cake.

Tips for buying a wheel base:
  1. A bit like with load cell resistance. Don't obsess over how many newton-meters of torque the wheel base outputs. Most people I know with the best wheelbases on the market still run theirs at around 8-11 which is way below the maximum for most high end DD wheels.
  2. Consider the wheel eco-system. Do you want plug and play solutions or do you want to mix and match manufacturers - No right or wrong answer there, it's down to your preference
  3. Consider mounting options. Does your new wheel need a new mounting bracket? is it front mounted or mounted from underneath?
What other important pieces of tech are needed?

Well it all depends on what your preferences are. Personally I love rally driving so one of the first pieces of equipment I bought was a handbrake. You might also want to buy a handbrake early on if you are into drifting. It is possible to do both rally and drift with just a mapped button press but nothing beats pulling an actual handbrake for those tight turns.

You may also want to chuck in a larger diameter circle wheel for oval racers but honestly I don't know a huge amount about what makes a good choice for oval racing so those that do, please share with us if it's an important piece of the puzzle below in the comments.

Other things to consider are a decent headset with microphone. If you are thinking of racing online with others having an exposed microphone and speakers is a bit annoying for others. Nobody wants to hear your clacky paddle shifts.

I hope this has helped you on your way to building your dream rig. What do you think of my list? Would you rearrange the order? let us all know your own tips below.

If you are thinking of upgrading any of your equipment please consider buying it through the RaceDepartment store. It helps us out a little every time you buy through the links.