Written by @Vaganza
I have a lot of experience with computers, and I mean a lot. I did the calculations and, in my 19+ year career in the service department in the Sharonville store, I officially crossed the 8,000 custom PC mark sometime this year. I have built a lot of gaming PCs for folks and have had great luck with them running well for everyone. I have done plenty of custom hard tube systems. Even outside of Micro Center I have designed, specified, installed, and programmed completely custom AV installations for churches, theaters, and parks. So, when I was approached to write about putting together a racing rig for our readers, I jumped at the chance but also realized that there is a lot that I don’t know. Like, do I need to fasten the thing to the floor? Are seatbelts required? And do I need to consider cup holders when putting this together?
I know a lot of other people are in this same place; they know a lot about the technology that goes into a gaming computer but have never needed to consider a highly specialized set of components, nor question whether it would impact the PC itself. So come along and learn with me while I dig into what a new racer would need for a racing rig.
Let’s start with the parts that we know the most about (and have several guides for): a gaming PC that everything plugs into. And the key there is “plugs into” – you’ll be hooking up a lot of USB devices, so you’ll either need a motherboard with lots of ports, or you might need to get a USB hub (powered, preferably).
Beyond that recommendation, we won’t be digging too much into the specifics for this guide, as each game or simulation is slightly different. We can, however, assume that you’ll need a decently high-powered rig if you want really get into sim racing. That means a good CPU, plenty of RAM, and a modern, mid-to-high-end GPU – preferably one that can support up to three ultrawide displays if you want maximum realism. While you’ll be custom building your rig, you don’t have to custom build your PC. If you come to one of our stores, you’ll see we are using a nice PowerSpec PC for our demo racing rigs and they work fantastically.
An important note: while it is possible to create a system that works for both racing sims and desktop use, the static nature of racing sims does make it a bit tricky. Be sure to plan out your build ahead of time, otherwise, you might end up frequently moving your computer back and forth between your racing setup and your desk. And while some people might be able to get away with video conferencing from the bucket seat in their racing rig, I’ve been on several calls where people would have given me some serious side eye when it looks like I’m calling in from the seat of a Chevy Equinox.
Ok, that was the easy part, right? Now where do we go? Let’s look at the frame that everything attaches to the racing rig.
There are a couple options on how you approach your racing rig frame. You can pick up every piece separately, or you can get all the components in one complete package, and, for a first-time build, we’ll focus on that.
TK Racing offers the Tony Kanaan Edition which contains the seat frame, the monitors stand, the steering wheel mount deck, pedals mount, and the shelves for things such as a keyboard and mouse. Once assembled these are the components that will sit on the floor. And, to answer my first question, they do not get fastened to the floor. That said, given the hard metal frame, you are going to want a rug to put underneath. This will protect a hardwood floor for you while providing the friction necessary to keep your setup from moving around as you enter and exit the rig.
If you already have a few pieces, you can pick parts up individually as well, as a seat frame with pedal mount, a steering wheel deck, and a monitors mount are all sold separately. Also, I checked, you can get a smartphone holder, and yes, cupholders are available.
Your seat options come in several colors and fits and are largely down to personal preference. Generally, you won’t need to worry about distance from your wheel/pedals, as the base should include a lever to adjust how close/far you are. No, seatbelts are not a requirement or even an option, however, equipped with the right seat rumble kit, you may wish they were. A seat rumble kit does just what it says: it attaches to your seat to give you some force feedback, ranging from something as simple as just a little vibration from engine noise, all the way to high-intensity RPM feedback.
If all that seems a little much for your first-time build, there are simpler options. Seats like the Next Level Foldable Cockpit and Playseat Challenge Racing Seat offer a more compact, easier-to-set-up option that still gives you a full racing experience.
There are a lot of options for steering wheels, and the options are wide and varied in not only features and cost but also in utility. If you’re looking for a more traditional wheel, like the type you’d find in the average car, there is a wide range of options, often bundled with pedals and/or a shifter. On the flip side, we also carry the more advanced wheels, offering the feel of a real-world race car with all its knobs and buttons. These advanced wheels can often be swapped at will, easily connecting and disconnecting from their direct drives (a small motor designed to accurately replicate the pull and resistance of a racing wheel in use). Finally, you can have the wheel jerked away from you as you spin out and put the car in the wall on turn 3!
Just like with steering wheels, your pedal choice depends on the type of racing you want to do. There are two- and three-pedal options, with the third pedal acting as your clutch for manual shifting. If you’re planning on always running automatic, the clutch is unnecessary. But if you even think you might want to try manual shifting, going for the three-pedal option is a smart move. And speaking of shifting, several gear shifts are available that can mount to the side of your rig (as well as an e-brake, if you’re planning on drifting your way to victory). A number of wheel options include paddle shifters as well if you’re looking for a middle ground between clutch shifting and automatic shifting.
Like most elements of a racing rig, you have several options for your monitor setup, but ultrawide (especially curved) is really the way to go. Our demo setup here in Sharonville has three curved ultrawides mounted next to one another and it really does feel like you’re sitting inside a vehicle, staring out the windows. While traditional HD monitors work as well – and might be a great entry point for first-time builders – but they won’t offer the same level of fidelity or realism. Depending on your needs and budget, you can even mix and match. Maybe a curved ultrawide up front with traditional monitors on either side?
And, with that, you should have everything you need for a great racing rig! There are, of course, all kinds of other accessories that you can add to the system, such as emergency stop buttons, lighting kits, speaker setups, and force feedback components (but don’t forget that cupholder!). If you’re ready to start designing your setup, the Micro Center Racing Sim Builder can help you get started on the right foot. And associates at every one of our stores will be happy to answer questions about your computer and racing setup. I hope you enjoyed this journey with me as I too have learned about exactly how serious E-racing as a sport is!
Excellent article. I will show this to a couple friends that are looking into building a rig, thank you!
After visiting Indy and seeing the crazy selection of components and even just racing wheels alone, I've learned that there's a lot more to this than I thought! This is a helpful guide that I'll be referring people to in the future.
I've heard the "Wheel Wall" is crazy. But really in Indianapolis, you NEED to have a lazer focus on racing.
great article its always great learning about racing sims
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