In 2004, I started to get so interested in sim racing that I decided to try to build something in the office that could work as a small cockpit. Before that I had played a lot of GP Legends, Grand Prix 2 and Indy 500 but never really thought about creating a static little corner intended only for racing games. It was in Gamereactor's old office space in the far north of Sweden and my already cramped office where it took place. My first combination here was a 27-inch monitor connected to a Dell computer with a Logitech G25 screwed on to the workbench. There I sat, in an office chair that had gotten rid of the wheels, and drove GP legends, GTR and the following year, of course, GTR 2 (from Swedish Simbin) like a proper mad man. The office chair and mini monitor were replaced a couple of years later with a Playseat, the G25 became a G27, which months later was replaced with Fanatec's first serious steering wheel (Porsche GT3). Later on the Playseat seat was replaced with a Fanatec Rennsport Racing Cockpit.
And yes, I have been doing that ever since - even though I took a longer break there between 2013-2017, to keep up with my car hobby. At the beginning of 2018, however, a new project was launched and new stuff was acquired to try to climb back to the world of sim racing. Gamereactor's Racing Simulator version 3.0 took shape. An initially extremely temporary solution with three Philips Momentum-monitors placed on boxes, but it worked, and I discovered almost immediately how bitten I was, again. The rest is, as you probably know by now, history. Me, hardware writer Fredrik, and the editors' most helpful fixer; David-G, have built, torn-down, re-built, altered, upgraded, built, deconstructed and built some more, all to be able to test as many different types of equipment as possible.
Version 1.2: Humble beginnings
Eleven years ago, this is how it all looked. A Playseat, Logitech G25, a PS3 and an 55" LCD-TV from Sharp.
Version 2.0: Boxes and zero precision
While waiting for the right three-screen mount, we placed the Philips monitors on boxes in the 2017-rig, during the actual construction of the next version of Gamereactor's racing sim.
Version 3.0: Seat mover
In this third (actually fourth, but we lack pictures from 2004) version of the Racing Rig, we added a Next Level Racing Motion V3 Seat Mover and a Next level GT Track Cockpit and arranged a proper three-screen mount for the monitors. It was also here that the 5.2 sound was added.
Version 4.0: Upgrades, upgrades
The Next Level Racing Motion V3-lump under the seat and the entire GT Track solution from Next Level Racing were was no more, just like the Philips monitors and the old computer. We upgraded to the all-Swedish Simrigs SR1 exercise system and LG C9 OLED screens of 3x55." A set-up that worked and still works well, but we lacked the simulation of oversteer, not least considering how much rally we play here at the office. Hence the "Project 5.0"-project. Commence another build!
Version 5.0 begins: Reassembly and paint
After tearing down the rig as a whole and moving everything out, I decided to put in a dark grey carpet, and paint all the walls dark, dark grey. This is to approach that dark, slightly snug feeling in a racing car. We also took the opportunity to glue absorbent boards (ordered from Gear4music.com) on the wall behind the screens.
Next Level Racing Traction Plus Platform
In order to be able to simulate over- and understeer, technology is required that can of course move the rig, in its entirety. In addition to French Prosimu, it is largely only Australian Next Level Racing (via Motion Systems) that sells this type of product. We ordered a Traction Plus Platform in November. Expectations were, of course, sky high.
Sway, surge and yaw
Combining a product with its own, tailor-made software to simulate realistic real-time telemetry in a racing context, with a completely different product - from another manufacturer, was not something we knew in advance would work. We had no idea if it would be possible to implement or not. But we were willing to take a chance. Risk the money, give it a try.
Painting the alu-chassi
We decided to paint the entire SRD Ultimate-alu-rig in beautiful gold metallic, while the entire set-up was deconstructed.
After the paint itself had hardened for a little over a week, at room temperature, we started to screw back all the stuff on the SRD Ultimate rig itself. We were, of course, extra careful with the T-bolts so as not to risk scraping off the fresh paint.
Alu profiles as mounts
In order to be able to bolt the Simrig SR1 rig to the Traction Plus platform, we naturally had to make our own mounts, which was done at the home of the editorial neighbour and car builder Fredrik Boijje who cut 80 / 40mm profiles we bought from Swedish Rig Design (and lacquered matte black with ordinary steel paint) and drilled four holes in each profile according to the hole patterns on the Next Level Platform.
Then these profiles were screwed onto the Traction Plus platform with M8 bolts.
Machined steel cups
Björn Hann helped us to machine solid steel brackets / cups, which we made 52mm wide. The rubber feet on the SR1 motion pistons measure 51 millimetres, and we used that extra millimetre just to avoid tilting or pressing the pistons into these cups. They were then painted with matt black hammer lacquer and then covered with four coats of matt clear coat.
Hardware writer Fredrik bolts one of the aluminium profiles to the Next Level Traction Plus platform.
The cups were then bolted to the aluminium profiles. These were made to naturally house the motion pistons in the SR1 system and were deliberately made a little shallow so that we never risked the plastic sleeve of the piston leg itself would be bumping into the upper edge of the actual steel cup. 52 millimetres wide, 35 millimetres high + the actual mounting plate of eight millimetres. There are ready-made cups of this type to buy, especially from China, including PT Actuators, but they are mainly made for Dbox-systems of 70 millimetres in circumference and cost $400 including shipping. This solution suited us better, looks better and cost us just around $60.
Omen by HP 30L with an RTX 3080
Our two year old Omen by HP Obelisk with an RTX 2080 in had to hand over the torch to the new flagship 30L with a RTX3080 card in. 30L has allowed us in Dirt Rally 2.0 to go from 45-55 frames per second in 3x4K (all settings on "Medium" and "Low") to about 75-80 frames per second with everything on "High" or "Ultra" . In Rfactor 2 or Assetto Corsa, we can max out at 120 frames per second, taking advantage of the LG CX (we upgraded from C9 two months ago) to the maximum capacity of these 120 Hz-OLED screens.
Constructing some flooring in the rig
The SR1 rig is delivered without a "floor", something that did not matter when we only had that system, standing directly on the floor. But when the SR1 rig was now to be placed in the cups on top of the Traction Plus platform, we needed to build a floor, for two reasons. Partly to have somewhere to put our feet when we would step in and out of the seat, but also to protect the electric motors in Next Levels Traction Plus plate from debris, dust and the risk of someone stepping right into it. The choice full of four millimetre thick floor aluminium, which we mounted with the smooth side up and covered with black car carpet.
Lots of measuring
The most sensitive part of this construction was clearly to ensure that the Simrig SR1 feet stood perfectly in the cups that were bolted to the aluminium profiles that were screwed into the Traction Plus platform. We measured them to a third of a millimetre and did most of the tests in Simrig's calibration system before we sat down in the chair itself and weighed the rig down properly.
Here we had the SR1 rig in place in the steel cups bolted to the chassis and could begin the recalibration of SR1. One of the clouds of concern for us was that we had to move the front motion actuators from Simrig about 50 centimetres forward in order for them to align with the front mount on the Traction Plus platform. This means that the rear actuators take more of the weight and are thus are exposed to more wear. Whether this is a viable solution or not remains to be seen - but in Simrig's own (eminent software) we have run a couple of tests ("Load Estimation") and it looks pretty good, after all.
The single biggest difficulty with a build of this type, a so-called Frankenstein rig, is of course trying to get software from two different manufacturers to play together. Given that Dirt Rally 2.0 is limited to sending only a signal with real-time telemetry, we turned to Simrig's chief programmer Erik, who helped us with a software-based passthrough, which now allows both Simrig's software and Next Level's Platform Manager software to use same signal, simultaneously. And it really works just fine. Another risk that we were, of course, well prepared for could overturn the entire project was the fact that these two rigs operate at different speeds, with different amount of input lag and different response times. However, it quickly turned out that it was just a matter of a few meagre, single milliseconds here or there, which means that they now feel as if they are working in perfect symbiosis with each other.
The rest of the gear
Much of the remaining parts of our current rig are the same stuff that we drove with in the past year. We use a Fanatec Podium DD2 steering wheel base (attached with a Podium Wheel Mount from Fanatec), a BG spacer of 77 millimetres to get the wheel itself closer to the body and a FIA-approved, official Momo WRC wheel in alcantara. We drive with a Heusinkveld handbrake, a sequential gearbox from Aiologs, the Sprint pedals from Heusinkveld, a Sparco Evo seat, a four-point seat belt from Sparco and a modified three-screen TV stand from Next Level Racing that we sawed apart and extended, reinforced and adapted to be able to push the entire rig between the front stand legs. LG CX OLED 3x55", as I said. Yamaha Atmos receiver (RX880), Dynavoice DM6 studio monitors all around plus two Dynavoice Thunder T12 basses.
Gamereactor Racing simulator 5.0
After five weeks of mowing, cutting, measuring, drilling, varnishing and all other aspects that have been included in this construction, the new rig is finally ready. And it works so well. Just the very feeling that the rear end slides out when you lose grip on the gravel in Dirt Rally 2.0, while the SR1 rig pumps on and handles "pitch," "roll," and "lift," is a gaming experience that goes beyond everything I have previously experienced. The road here has been long and bumpy. And above all costly. I'm not saying we're done here, not at all. In the future, there will surely be completely different things and our pursuit of racing perfection is guaranteed to continue, but right now - this home-built 6DOF rig is a dream come true and I suspect we will spend at least 300 hours here in 2021.
Complete list of components
The Simrig SR1 motion-system
The Traction Loss-platform
The wheel mounts