The Autosport International is Europe's biggest autoshow and it's been sorely missed over the past two years. Despite the emphasis being on the physical cars, esports and Sim Racing made their presence felt this past weekend at Birmingham's NEC.
One of the standouts from the sector was Simtag, who is aiming to revolutionise home racing setups.
Simtag Sim Racing
Simtag is a Belgian company that specialises in custom racing rigs. To demonstrate their prowess in this sector, they had a real showpiece at their Autosport 2023 stand.
Simtag had created an impressive setup for attendees to try out. With curved triple monitors, racing seat, pedals and a beast of a PC running the experience, this was far better than the vast majority of gamers own or have ever used.
There was one thing that the rigs were missing in the past, and that was the steering wheel. Every car has a unique steering wheel, and it's the hardest component of a racing wheel to replicate without the real thing.
Thankfully, due to a partnership with Cosworth, the actual racing wheel from the United Autosports LMP2 Endurance car was on the rig. The level of immersion is almost unparalleled.
What's the damage?
Now, let's address the elephant in the room, the price. It should come as no surprise that this isn't cheap, just look at Milestone's motorbike equivalent. The most "basic" setup on offer will set you back around €20,000 (£17.7k, $21.7k).
That will give you a single monitor, static rig and a powerful enough PC to run whatever game you choose to test your skills. For reference, the rig Simtag had setup at Autosport cost around €32,000 (£28.3k, $34.7k).
Depending upon what you want though, the sky's the limit. If you want it, and you can afford it, Simtag can make it. You really get what you pay for here, as everybody that tried out the rig was left in no doubt about.
Esports and sim racing are bigger than ever before and it's only going in one direction. That means that equipment will become more expensive, as it grows in both sophistication and quality.
So, with that in mind, it is a legitimate question to ask where the market is for something with this level of investment. The answer is two-fold, with the first being wealthy gamers that want to experience a realistic session within the comfort of their own home.
The second, and by far the largest, market for Simtag are racing teams and professional esports outfits. Esports has been getting more expensive, but the same is true for physical motorsports as well.
In fact, it's ballooned to a level where you're requiring six and even seven-figure amounts to maintain a driver and their crew.
So, while they're certainly not inexpensive, Simtag's rigs are way less expensive than real-life motorsport. Plus, you can manipulate aspects of the software to try alternate scenarios.
For example, if you want to find an ideal wet weather setup around Spa, you'd have to travel to Belgium and hope it rained. When you factor in renting a car, fuel, travel, time and everything in between, the cost of doing that once is far more than purchasing a five-figure sim racing rig.
Testing it out
Simtag were running iRacing on their rig, with Silverstone the choice of circuit and glorious sunshine beaming down on the track. Small increments of time can add up to a huge difference over the space of a lap or a race.
Everything from the pedal length and sensitivity to the seat and more can be adjusted to your preferences, just like a real car. Thanks to the incredible force feedback all over the rig, it feels real.
The screech of the tyres to the punch in the back it gives you when you change gear is scarily realistic. If this was in the comfort of your own home, you could easily get lost in the immersion.
Don't mistake realism for a lack of difficulty though, as just like driving the real-life car, chasing lap times around a high-speed circuit is far from easy. Transitioning from a controller pad to this is truly chalk and cheese.
So, if you ever get the chance, definitely check one of these rigs out. While they may be out of your price range right now, they could offer you a taste of the future of racing games.