Fun Factor – Part 2
I really should control myself when it comes down to writing blogs. It’s something to read a nice blog every now and then, but having someone spam out a blog almost in a daily basis can get annoying. I mean, this writing is already a part 2 to what i already wrote just a bit over a year ago! Actually, these blogs aren’t that much related, apart from being about sim racing hardware, but I just couldn’t come up with a better name for this one.
Anyways, about a year ago I made the decision that a direct drive wheel is something that I need. Not want, but need. Ok, maybe I just wanted to get one, a lot! Which, in case you, the reader, are a like minded individual that takes sim racing a bit more seriously than the next guy, will fully understand. At the time of my decision, the market was really nicely coming alive with different options for a direct drive wheels. After some studying, I decided to order the wheel from a Spanish producer, EC Sim Hardware. Now, if you are familiar with the “Direct Drive wheel scene”, you might ask why not go for an Open Sim Wheel project. Well, first and most important bit was for me the fact that I have no knowledge whatsoever of, what for example, an Mmos, API or other mysterious abbreviations. I do have a fairly technical background from work and I usually at least try to understand how stuff works, but for this project, I wanted someone else to do that work for me. My second reason is a bit more ideological. I really want our great hobby to grow into something bigger, which in my opinion, is completely doable, but it is down to us to make it happen. One step in that project is to buy products from the rather niche companies that produce them. And thirdly, even though I have happily discovered, the components of the wheel appear to be indestructible, in case something goes wrong, there is always warranty and product support.
So, even though there has been numerous reviews and comparisons of different Direct Drive wheels which you can find from Youtube and iRacing forums, I’ll try to come up with something which hopefully shed some light why a steering wheel system with 10 times the pricetag of a wheel you can get from the local supermarket is worth it. First of all, the accuracy of the the wheel is like no other. I’ve had a few non-DD wheels before and thought that the accuracy, especially in the higher range products was good enough, but no, I was wrong. I would also make the bold claim that some input lag was removed as well, but I haven’t done any measurements whatsoever to verify this. Either way, I can be fairly sure that it’s not the steering system which could be causing any input lag. Second, and at some cases even bigger feature of the wheel is the force feedback. It is just amazing. I have never been a fan of any of the heavier GT cars, but after getting this wheel, I was happily downgrading my licence in GT races, just because the cars were suddenly alive and fun to drive! The feel of the wheel is so different than with anything before. I have never been able to feel the limit from the steering wheel. Sure, I have been able to sense it from other cues, like how the car rotates, how does it react to my inputs and how do the tires sound like. But now, with this wheel, when I’m turning into a corner, I can immediately sense what is happening, and when the front tires are at their optimum angle.
It’s actually quite counter-intuitive in a way. You really want the sharpest force feedback you can get, and then while you drive, you get close to the optimal slip angle, and suddenly the wheel starts to feel like the forces are damped, and things suddenly become a bit unresponsive.. Almost like there is something wrong. But no, instead, things couldn’t be more right! Due to some fairly complex physics about slip angle and self aligning torque, that is exactly what is supposed to happen! And the wheel is reproducing that effect without any additional effects, but just the information that is coming from iRacing. To me, that’s quite awesome, and definitely something I wasn’t expecting ever see with a product that is openly available for consumers!
The last bit what impressed me with the wheel was how easy the assembly was. All the necessary cables were there, and even though I needed to plug in more than the power cord and USB cable, the whole wheel was really just plug&play. I installed the EC Sim drivers and after quickly going through the settings, I was ready to drive. For whatever reason as my first combination, I selected VIR with Skip Barber. On my first lap, taking the South Bend corner in a nice, 4 wheel drift without really putting much effort in it was something that I will remember a long time. Second lap, doing exactly the same while maintaining the effort level near zero, was something fully convinced me that I had invested my money the right way; driving was again one large step more fun, rewarding and entertaining than it was before!