Tech Review: Fanatec Sim Racing Gear

2017-08-17 11:01

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For as long as I can remember I have loved simulation gaming. All the way from the PlayStation 1’s Colin McCrae Rally I have arrived here today with Project Cars, Formula 1, and many more simulators. I was so captivated with the original rFactor I wrote a thesis about it.

To fully appreciate the advancement that gaming has made over time – especially racing sims – you need to be immersed in it, but for that you need the right gear. Fortunately, I have recently been privileged enough to get my hands on Fanatec gear. Endor, the company under which the Fanatec brand is sold, is headquartered in Landshut/Bavaria and was founded in 1997 by Thomas Jackermeier.

Look, feel and quality

The aesthetic quality of the Fanatec gear is right up there with anything on the market if not the clear leader. The Formula wheel, used in this review, has beautifully moulded grips covered in genuine Italian Alcantara, which is a suede-like material, normally found in luxury cars. It might ostensibly seem like a minor detail but the Alcantara grips make a big impact on the feel and level of comfort with the wheel. If you have, for example, ever played with leather stitched rim, for a few hours you would know how important the comfort factor is.

ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula Black

Immediately out of the box the Formula wheel feels sturdy without being too heavy. It’s elegantly black finish and CNC machined and anodized aluminium front plate gives it a polished and well-designed look.

The diameter of the Fanatec Formula wheel sits at 26cm and is also fitted with a quick release system, which, while improving ease of use, certainly ups the realism stakes in terms of making you feels like you’re driving a real racing car.

There are eleven programmable buttons, which are colour-coded in an arrangement of black, grey, blue, purple, and red, which makes them easier to pick up in your peripheral vision.

If you needed proof that Fanatec considered every last detail – the two paddle shifters, made of metal, are fully adjustable in terms of angle, distance and travel.

Not one but two vibration motors are integrated into to the wheel and is directly adjustable through the wheel’s on-board menu that includes the ability to save up to five different profiles.

ClubSport Pedals V3

The high-resolution pedals include 12bit resolution and have a pressure sensitive brake with 90-kilogram load-cell sensor. However, if you feel that the brake stiffness is not to your preference it’s easily modifiable by simply turning the knob directly on the brake pedal, likewise for the throttle pedal. But Fanatec didn’t stop there as the brake and throttle also include vibration motors, which simulate wheel spin and locking tyres.

The great news is that from the position of the pedals, to the angle, all of it is adjustable. And if you don’t like the custom pedal plates Fanatec even includes a full set of D-shape pedal plates as an alternative. Overall the performance of the pedals cannot be faulted.

Performance

Once I’d set up the wheel to a spec that I was comfortable with, I ran about 200 laps on Project Cars and roughly 400 laps on F1 2016. The Fanatec showed no signs of laboring at any point.

Will it make you a better and/or quicker driver?

In truth there is no racing gear in the world that will make you a quicker racing driver if you don’t have the basics down. Speed comes from an inherent feel, an understanding of just when to start applying throttle, how much steering angle to input, or when to start bleeding off the brakes. What the Fanatec gear will give you is the ability to be marvelously precise. It is this level of staggering precision which sets Fanatec apart from the competition. 

While it may not make you better and/or quicker it will provide a sim racing experiencing that is unparalleled in terms of immersion and enjoyment.

Finally, while all of these components deserve to stand and be lauded individually, the most impressive aspect is not in the Fanatec Formula rim, or the v3 ClubSport pedals, nor is it in the CSL Elite wheelbase. Instead the most impressive aspect is in how well all of these components combine to deliver a simulation experience that every gamer dreams of. Fanatec gear is quite simply sim racing art. 

ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula. Photo: NATALIE LE CLUE

ClubSport Pedals V3. Photo: NATALIE LE CLUE

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