You have a wheel and a nice set of pedals. The next piece of simracing hardware on the list to enhance your immersion may well be a shifter. Here is your comprehensive guide to everything relating to changing gear in simracing.
Image Credit: Pro-Sim
Simracing may be the hobby for motorsport enthusiasts that can’t afford to race real cars. But that doesn’t mean it’s cheap. Consoles and PCs used to run various games cost an arm and a leg and that’s before adding a wheel and pedals to your basket. Once you’re comfortable with the basic rig elements, there are always more things to buy.
Shifters are the next logical step after a simracing wheel and pedals. Just like the basic elements used to simulate a cockpit, there’s plenty of choice on the shifter market. H-pattern setups allow drivers to heel-toe just like a classic racer while sequential boxes simulate a more recent transmission. Many different brands cater to these different layouts. As such, it can be hard to navigate the options on the table.
Whether you’re all about brand loyalty, or interested in the sheer simulation on offer from a quality shifter, the options available are wide-ranging. Here’s a rundown of the best simracing shifters in 2023.
Logitech G Driving Force Shifter: Entry Level
Aside from its recent and, some might say pricey, Direct Drive wheel, Logitech is the leader in entry-level simracing equipment. That is certainly the case for shifters. The Logitech Driving Force Shifter is, in comparison to other options, a simple design. The base is made from steel and plastic while leather for the gear knob makes for an ergonomic feel.
This entry-level design may only offer an H-pattern setup, but it hits the market at less than half the price of its competition, costing just under €65. On consoles, it will only function with a Logitech wheel, though adapters are available for PC racers to use the Logitech shifter as its own USB device. As such, you can combine this entry-level simracing shifter with any wheel or pedal set.
Thrustmaster TH8A: Hello Good Looking
For wheels and pedals, Thrustmaster has always sat between Logitech and Fanatec. However, when it comes to the TH8A shifter, the Franco-American manufacturer certainly closes in on the higher end of that spectrum.
Costing a nice, round €200, its price represents a large jump from Logitech’s option. Though with a gorgeous stainless steel finish and an old-school gated shift plate, it definitely looks the part. On top of its fantastic looks, the Thrustmaster TH8A can easily swap from an H-pattern to a sequential shifting layout. This is great for those that like going from one car type to another.
Inside the shifter, Thrustmaster boasts magnetic sensors which reportedly don’t suffer from wear. In theory, this contactless design makes the shifter almost indestructible from regular use.
Heusinkveld Sim Shifter Sequential
Where Logitech only offers a 6-speed H-pattern simracing shifter, Heusinkveld’s Sim Shifter only simulates a sequential box. Though that doesn’t mean it isn’t adjustable. Three different gear knob options allow simracers to change the positioning of their shifter depending on the car they are driving. This appears to be especially useful for VR driving as one can match up the shifter’s feel with that of the in-game car.
As with all Heusinkveld products, this simracing shifter connects to a PC via USB port. As such, console users are out of luck. Coming in at €207 on the manufacturer’s official website, it costs more than the Thrustmaster while covering fewer bases. Though based on the brand’s pedals, one can assume it is of immense quality.
Fanatec Clubsport Shifter SQ V 1.5: Serious Simracing Shifter
Just like the TH8A, Fanatec’s Clubsport Shifter allows easy switching from a 7-speed H-pattern layout to a sequential one. Though Fanatec goes one step further by providing two different knobs; each adapted to their own transmission style.
The boxy case and solid-looking shifter may not be as elegant as Thrustmaster’s design, but it certainly appears sturdier. Plus, it offers just as much functionality. Just like the TH8A, the Clubsport Shifter comes with both a USB cable for standalone use and a connector in case users want to connect their shifter to a Fanatec wheel. At €259, this and Thrustmaster’s alternative seem to be locking horns.
VNM Shifter: Top of the Range
Capping off the range that one might consider sensible for the common simracer is VNM. This all-aluminium shifter sits towards the top end of the normal consumer’s price range at €309. For that, you get a sturdy shifter with both sequential and H-pattern functionality.
In fact, not only does this quality piece of kit switch from a traditional manual gearbox to a sequential shift. It also features optional plates allowing for 4, 5, 6, 7 and 8-speed transmissions. With this, one can simulate various older cars in a more immersive way. An old Ford Escort doesn’t have 7 gears, so why should your shifter have them when bombing through a classic rally?
Pro-Sim’s Collection of Extravagant Shifters
The last stop on the very expensive list is reserved only for those with more money than they know what to do with. It’s all well and good fitting shifters with magnets to simulate gears clunking into place. However, for the real experience, you want more weight and a harder time finding your gear.
British manufacturer Pro-Sim has devised a pair of simracing shifters fitted to linkages akin to those found in real cars. The added material and parts attached to the gear knob on this shifter should make for a more authentic gear changing experience. The Pro-Sim shifter is available either as a sequential or an H-pattern layout.
With very strong construction and insane attention to detail, this shifter isn’t for everyone. The sequential option starts at over €1,000 while the H-pattern version will set you back over €1,300. This is obviously for professional simrigs used by major training outfits. You certainly won’t see this in most people’s living rooms.
Do you have a simracing shifter and if so, which one did you get? Tell us on Twitter at @OverTake_gg or in the comments down below!