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Project Sim Racer: Part 3 - Enhancing the Experience With Fanatec

by Erik Jacobs

After spending a good number of hours behind the Logitech G920 controls on our GT-R Simulator GTA-F cockpit, we wanted to see if we could enhance our experience. There wasn’t anything wrong with the Logitech setup, but there is a whole lot more high-end gear out there, and we wanted to try some. Enter Fanatec, and another pile of boxes!

Like many companies in the sim racing space, Fanatec got its start out of necessity. Endor AG, the parent company, was essentially founded in 1997 in Germany by a computer gaming enthusiast looking to produce better and more realistic controls. Originally manufacturing joysticks and other peripherals, Fanatec eventually moved on to develop, produce and distribute driving wheels. In fact, Fanatec’s early game console wheel for the Playstation was actually marketed and sold by Sony Computer Entertainment Europe (SCEE).

Today, Fanatec is exclusively a manufacturer of sim racing hardware. They make wheel bases and wheels, pedal sets, shifters, hand brakes, and a cockpit. They also sell a few different versions of their wheel bases and pedal sets, from mild to wild.

The entry price on a Fanatec wheel, pedal and shifter setup is significantly more than the Logitech G920. Does it live up to the cost? Let’s find out.

 

The Fanatec CSL Elite Wheel Base, ClubSport Formula wheel, and CSL Steering Wheel P1 for Xbox One.

Fanatec provides a very modular and customizable set of options with the CSL Elite Wheel Base. In some ways the G920 features “look” nicer on paper, but sometimes the sum of the parts is what makes the difference. Like the G920, the CSL Elite Wheel Base may be used with either a PC or an Xbox One.

On the inside, the CSL Elite base uses a brushless servo motor (plus) and a belt drive (theoretically minus). Brushless motors tend to provide higher performance and longer life due to the lack of wear parts (the brushes). On paper a belt drive sounds potentially like a problem in contrast to the G920 helical gearing, but in practice, the Elite base provides a strong and very smooth feel.

 

The unboxed CSL Elite Wheel Base, cords, and clamp.

Once out of the box, you immediately notice the difference. The Fanatec base is BIG. It’s also HEAVY. And it feels extremely sturdy. It feels very… German. That is not a bad thing. If you’ve ever driven an older German car or used any precision German tooling, you know the feel that I’m talking about. Heck, even the Fanatec packaging is really nice! You can also guess that, given its size, the internal components on the Elite base are probably bigger, which means longer life.

Another thing you might be wondering is where the wheel is. Well, you probably weren’t wondering that because you saw two boxes with wheels. But, the interesting thing here is the quick connect mechanism that Fanatec uses. There is a multi-socket electrical plug inside the quick connect hub, which itself is keyed to ensure the wheel attaches in the right position.

By using this mechanism, Fanatec is able to manufacture a wide array of steering wheels to suit different simulation styles. If you want a more traditional formula-style square-ish wheel, they have those. If you want a GT-style larger circular wheel, they have several of those options, too. Want a stock car style wheel with customizable button placement? They’ve got you covered there, too.

The Elite base can be clamped to a surface but also includes metric bolt holes underneath for a more sturdy and secure mounting. It’s a good thing, too, because the clamping mechanism actually could not be used in combination with the GTA-F cockpit’s wheel mount.

One more really nice feature of the CSL Elite Wheel Base is the built-in LED meter. This can be used as a rev meter / shift light, as a fuel level indicator, or for whatever other purpose you can imagine depending on the settings of the simulator you are using.

Four mounting holes on the front of the wheel base provide an attachment point for Fanatec’s fixed, customizable and adjustable shifter paddles, or for other accessories. You would be amazed at the number of accessories there are available in the sim market right now, from displays to button boards and more.

 

What do we have here? Fanatec pays extra attention to the little details, and the P1 wheel came in this nice baggie inside the box.
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Comments
Hap
Haplink
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 9:58 AM
Load cell braking is great in theory, but this is a simulator with no motion, and you do not get any G forces from braking or turning or accelerating. Unless of course you have 5 figures to blow on full motion toys, which most of us would rather spend on their real car. Therefore, the force applied to the non-moving pedal does not generate any force that your body feels, all you have is visuals, and poor visuals at that. In many respects, pot braking is easier to use because your body does learn a relationship between distance you move your foot and braking effectiveness. I've used them both, neither are worth a crap for detecting brake lock up, compared to the real world. I've always said real racing is easier than sim racing for the simple reason that we get no forces acting on the body that we get from a real car on a real road. But then again, real cars cost real money when you crash them whereas with sims a new cars is just an ESC away.
Crousti
Croustilink
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 1:38 PM
You really went all out with the fanatec setup !

the elite wheel has 2 motors in it instead of one, and they are known to be very good (mabushi motors), hence why it has all that punch. Beware though, depending on the game used, you might find yourself saturating the input. While it may feel funnier, it ends up removing some "resolution" of the force feedback; bumps that would only feel slightly will feel like hitting a curb. This is known to happen in assetto corsa, i do not know if your games have the same problem.

I have the csr elite pedals with the load cell too. it also allows changing pedal position which is very nice to recreate the pedal position of your race car (pedals can be offset up/down/left/right).
There is a tuner kit available which contains more springs, rubber dampers, metal bars that go on the other side of the rubber dampers, lube, brass ring and another pedal to fine tune it to your liking. It is cheap and i strongly recommend it if you are not entirely satisfied with your settings.

You should also get a couple of load sensors from ebay. Fanatec sells them a fortune while it is a standard item.

@hap
The brake pedal feel with a load sensor is just miles away from a conventional pot + spring setup, but there is some work involved to make it happen. If you feel it is no different it usually means the rubber is too soft. I was able to recreate the exact feeling of my track car brake pedal but it took quite some adjusting. Once this is done, you can adjust ingame brake response to lock up near or at the point you do IRL. There is no way to do that with a conventional spring and pot setup.
Mike Kojima
Mike Kojimalink
Tuesday, April 11, 2017 2:26 PM
I see some high-end sims actually have a Tilton pedal box with dual master cylinders!
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