Sim Racing Shifters Must-Have Or Optional? MOZA Racing HGP Shifter
Image credit: MOZA Racing

Sim Racing Shifters: Must-Have Or Optional?

The ever-present question in sim racing equipment is “do I need it?”, and sim racing shifters are often subject to it as well. Are they a must-have, or can you do without?

Sequential and H-pattern shifters are used in a wide variety of sim racing setups. The drivers that specialise in historic class racing use a shifter for enhanced accuracy and immersion, but do you need one for your setup?

Image Credit: Thrustmaster

Why Have A Shifter At All?

Having either a sequential or H-pattern shifter in your setup gives you a much broader range of potential within your chosen simulators. An example where a H-pattern shifter is really useful would be in a rally game. Whether it be in Richard Burns Rally or EA Sports WRC, shifting from fourth to second without having to cycle through third could save you a lot of time in the cars that had them.

Looking past their function, it is great fun to be able to shift as if you were in a real car. If you were to pair it with a VR headset, the immersion achieved would be something very special. But which shifter should you go for? And which style?

Sim Racing Shifters: Sequential Vs H-Pattern

Sequential shifters work in a similar way to the paddle shifters found on the back of almost every racing wheel on the market, just in an upright position. Modern touring cars, the current Rally1 WRC cars and some lower-tiered open-wheel cars utilise a sequential shifter. This also allows a much quicker shift compared to the H-Pattern and eliminates the need for a clutch pedal.

H-Pattern shifters create the most immersive experience in sim racing. Whilst not as efficient as sequential, the usability in historic racing and road cars is second to none. The ability to simulate what a real gearbox in a car would feel like is some of the best, and cheapest, immersion addons for your setup money can buy.

Granted, most shifters do not quite feel like the real thing. There are models out there that simulate actual shifters, including blocking gear engagement if the clutch is not pressed. Usually, those are extremely expensive, though.

So which one should you consider? Well, if both of them fit your criteria, then some offerings can do both. The ability to switch from a H-pattern layout into a sequential one is surprisingly common in both the budget and the high-end markets. We will have a shifter overview available later this week to go into more detail!

If you are after some examples as well as a breakdown of other hardware you might need, check out our guide here.

Image Credit: Pro-Sim

Is A Shifter Essential?

The short answer is… no. In most circumstances, you can get away with using the paddle shifters on the back of the wheel rim for most modern cars. However, when you start to look into the more historic content available you begin to realise just how crucial a shifter, and a clutch pedal, really are. They are driveable without either, though an automatic clutch setting usually results in longer shift times.

If you prefer to race historic cars, however, the answer is yes. Whilst you can compete with paddle shifters and an automatic clutch, you might find yourself at a significant disadvantage. Not only that, but the realism aspect is a bit compromised when driving, for example, a 1966 Formula One car with modern GT3 style paddle shifters.

There is a bit of a learning curve attached to sim racing shifters, though. In order to properly simulate driving with one, mastering the heel-and-toe technique is essential. And that can take quite some time to get used to if you are entirely new to it.

Are you thinking about adding a shifter to your setup? Let us know which one you choose on Twitter @OverTake_gg or in the comments below!

Sports Journalism graduate from Solent Southampton University with a burning passion for motorsport. I've been sim racing virtually all my life, I started out with Toca 2 Touring Cars when I was very young and now attempt to compete in the likes of iRacing and Rfactor 2. I graduated University in July, and got married to my beautiful wife Rachel at the end of August.