Stepping Up the Simulation Game
Fanatec’s latest simulation gear ups its game.
I don’t exactly remember when I first heard about Fanatec, but it likely was sometime after the release of DiRT 2. I was somewhat into racing games before that, but that particular title sold me on the genre and I have not looked back since. Before then I used a Microsoft Sidewinder FFB stick for my racing, but it was D2 that convinced me to purchase a wheel for the full fledged experience. The initial impression of Fanatec was of course “high priced, but really nice gear”. These were products that I did not think I would ever see in any personal capacity as they were out of my price range and my driving passion was just not amped up enough to rationalize it.
My dog is quite suspicious of the amount of boxes the set came in.
I know I probably talk about it too much, but the introduction of DiRT Rally really supercharged my interest in driving accessories due to the work they did on physics and Force Feedback effects. My older Thrustmaster Ferrari F430 wheel featured a meager 270 degrees of rotation and clunky FFB that did not translate well with this particular title. It may have done OK with older, more arcade based racers, but with the latest generation of sims that focus on accuracy in experience it just did not cut it. Purchasing a Thrustmaster TX based unit was a night and day experience for these latest titles.
The next few months after that I spent time with multiple other wheels and accessories and provided a few reviews based on them. My level of interest grew exponentially about what the industry offered. I was able to contact Fanatec and they agreed to put together a bundle of products based on their latest ClubSport V2 products. This would include the ClubSport V2 Base, ClubSport Universal Hub for Xbox One, ClubSport Pedals V3, ClubSport Shifter SQ, and the desk mounting hardware for the units.
Fanatec is not for the faint of heart when it comes to pricing. The total package I received is worth 1800 Euro, or about $2016 US. This is a pretty tremendous amount of money for racing gear, but it is about average for higher end products that exist in this market. People will question why it costs so much, but after my experience with it I now know why.
Before I launch into the review we should cover how a user plans to mount this hardware. Fanatec sent me the desk mounting hardware that allows the wheel and shifter to be attached to a regular sized desk with enough overhang to provide support. These mounts require at least 4” of overhang or they simply will not hold the gear adequately and safely.
The main mounting mechanism is a very heavy anodized metal unit that features a cable guide and an adjustable plate that provides about 20 degrees of tilt that can be applied to the wheel/base. This features two clamps for front and back that provide a tremendous amount of stability. The weakness of this particular unit is that the mechanism to adjust tilt is not nearly as solid. It is pretty good, but I was unable to get used to the small amount of play that it gave during strong feedback or hard rotation. Users are able to take off the adjustable portion and mount directly onto the base plate. I did this with the included mounting spacers that gave about 10 degrees of tilt to the wheel. After this modification I did not have any play whatsoever and it was firmly attached to the desk. I did experience some play afterwards, but that was due to the desk moving and not the mount.
The desk mount is very heavy and features a tight clamping mechanism.
The mounting mechanism for the sequential shifter is another solid piece of metal with two clamps. It does not feature any adjustments in tilt or rotation. It also solidly attaches the shifter to the desk. The only issue here is that the shifter has a massive base in the first place, so when it is mounted on the same level as the wheel the shifter handle is above the wheel. It makes for an odd shifter in the H-mode, but it is pretty accurate for those who will use it for sequential work (note where the shifter is in actual rally racing).
My particular setup had wheel in the center, shifter on the right, and bungee mounted to the right of the shifter is an old joystick that acts as an e-brake. This gave a setup that was fairly correct as a simulation of a Rally-X cockpit. It was quite a bit of fun, but took some getting used to as I had previously only used the paddle shifters on the wheels. The only issue I had was that when aggressively shifting it would move the desk and my monitors would shake around. This is not a ding on Fanatec, as their mounting hardware was rock solid.
So what is my point? If a user is planning on buying these products, the desk mounting hardware is more than adequate and will do that job. The wheel base mounting system without the tilt functionality was rock solid, but the clamp cranks hang pretty low and if I was not careful I would knock my knees against them. They are hard. When mounting the sequential shifter it makes things even tighter.
If I had space and extra funds, then a full racing cockpit of seat and appropriate mounts is the best way to go. I had no problems with the desk mounts and I quickly acclimatized myself to it, but mileage will vary. The best way to mount these parts is a full cockpit while avoiding the desk mounting hardware. This will allow the user to better adjust angles and heights of the different components while providing a solid base for the wheel, shifter, and pedals.
These products are really designed from the beginning to be mounted as such. If the consumer has the space and funds, then this is the proper way to do this. It will more fully customize the experience and provide a far more adjustable environment than a limited space desk and office chair.