If everything seems under control, you’re just not going fast enough.
I purchased my Logitech G29 racing wheel set in March 2020, and now it’s been almost 4 years. It has been working stably, except for a warranty replacement due to a motherboard failure. During this time, I recommended the wheel set to a friend who became a keyboard racer. After experiencing @lxthunter’s T300 belt-driven wheel and feeling the more precise road feedback, I began to consider upgrading my own racing wheel.
Recently, I revisited the prices of the G29 and T300 wheel sets and found that they were only around 600 CNY apart. If someone were to ask me today for a recommendation for a racing wheel to play sim racing games like Assetto Corsa Competizione and Assetto Corsa, I would strongly discourage them from choosing a G29-like gear-driven wheel (though I must say that budget gear-driven wheels are still a viable option for newcomers who are unsure about their interest in sim racing).
Due to my frequent play of Assetto Corsa Competizione, the game features a lot of Fanatec advertising, including the M4 GT3 car (which is indeed closely associated with Fanatec, and Fanatec manufactures the steering wheel) and electronic screens at the racetracks.
My initial introduction to Fanatec was through their Clubsport V3 Pedals. I remember reading reviews that mentioned these pedals could provide a realistic feel of ABS braking. However, the price of the pedals, which was over 3000 CNY, seemed quite expensive to me at the time (I had just graduated and had recently started working at PingCAP).
I gradually learned about the differences between gear-driven, belt-driven, and direct-drive wheels, and after comparing the Hall sensors, position sensors, and pressure sensors on the pedals, I decided that my next set of sim racing equipment had to include a direct-drive wheel.
I originally wanted to find a store where I could test it, but after searching, I found that in Shanghai, the only place with a direct-drive setup was on the G-force rig on the second floor of Hipole. When I went there, I was a bit socially anxious, and the pricing was based on hourly rates, so it was not cheap, and I missed the only opportunity to try out a direct-drive wheel.
So, I had no choice but to buy one directly. Here, it’s worth noting that some users had reported compatibility issues with direct-drive wheels in China. Therefore, I decided to purchase Fanatec’s complete set of equipment, which includes:
- Gran Turismo DD Pro Wheel Base (8 Nm)
- ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula V2.5
- ClubSport Pedals V3
- Boost Kit 180 (8Nm)
- Reusing my existing Next Level Racing F-GT Lite rig
All of Fanatec’s equipment is “Designed in Germany, Made in China,” similar to the experience of buying a ThinkPad X1 Carbon. However, the difference is that you can buy the X1 Carbon from the official Chinese channel for an additional cost, while Fanatec does not have this option. You can only import it or purchase it from some Taobao stores.
The DD Pro base and CSL DD base seem to have the same performance, both defaulting to 5Nm. When connected to a 180W power supply, they automatically become 8Nm versions. The difference between the two is that the DD Pro can be used with a PlayStation, while the CSL DD cannot. The price difference on the official website is 100 USD.
They really know how to make money.
To use Fanatec’s equipment, you need to download two drivers: the Fanatec driver and a software called Fanalab.
- Driver download: https://fanatec.com/eu-en/driver
- Fanalab download: https://forum.fanatec.com/categories/fanalab
Fanalab’s download location seems like a forum, but it’s a crucial tool. After downloading it, you can capture some telemetry signals in games, such as ABS, TC activation, and RPM. Without downloading Fanalab, the pedals won’t provide ABS feedback, and the steering wheel won’t display the gear shift indicator lights properly.
Clubsport V3 Pedals
Official link: https://fanatec.com/eu-en/pedals/clubsport-pedals-v3
Official price: 399.95 USD
For some strange reason, these arrived first, so I started trying to use Fanatec pedals with my G29 steering wheel.
The pedals have a small controller at the back, supporting two connection methods:
- Direct USB connection to the computer
- Connecting to the base through a cable that looks like a telephone line
Yes, these pedals do not need a power source.
So, for me, it was a matter of removing the G29 pedals and securely attaching the V3 pedals to my rig using USB connection to the computer.
The mounting holes for these pedals are 8.5mm, while the F-GT Lite rig has 8mm mounting holes. Neither the rig nor the pedals come with corresponding screws for mounting, so I had to make a trip to the hardware store to buy 4 screws for secure mounting.
When I opened Assetto Corsa Competizione, I found that I could mix and match the pedals directly; it was a plug-and-play experience.
In terms of the feel, the brake pedal uses a pressure sensor (or some people call it a load cell) which is quite different from pedals like the G29, which use a position sensor. The pedal’s depth in the game is determined by the pressure on the pedal rather than the physical pedal depth. The actual “feel” of this setup is more linear and consistent compared to the two-stage feel of the G29, which relies on springs and rubber to simulate pedal feel. Initially, it took some getting used to because the in-game pedal depth does not correspond 1:1 to the actual pedal depth. Additionally, the overall pedal travel is shorter. After getting used to it for about 10 laps, coupled with the added ABS feedback from the pedal’s built-in motor (which is essentially vibration), I found that these pedals are excellent for trail braking. You only need to slightly release the brake to reduce brake force in the game, matching the reduction in pedal force (unlike the G29, which requires gradually releasing the pedal’s travel).
The advantage of this pedal feel is that it’s easy to develop muscle memory for braking. In contrast, the G29 doesn’t make it as easy to consistently apply the same amount of braking force at the same position, especially when gradually releasing the brake.
Boost Kit 180 (8Nm)
Official price: 149 USD, which I find hard to understand, but maybe that’s capitalism for you.
The Boost Kit 180 (8Nm) is essentially a 180W power supply, and there are many DIY tutorials available online.
Yes, this is also “Made in China.”
ClubSport Steering Wheel Formula V2.5
Official link: https://fanatec.com/eu
Official price: 339 USD
This steering wheel requires a quick-release mechanism. It has a good feel to it, but the paddle shifter’s feel wasn’t as good as I had imagined (it even feels inferior to the paddle shifters on the CVT Civic, for example). It’s also “Made in China.”
The wheel has three knobs in the middle, with the left and right knobs labeled 1-12. However, these numbers do not correspond directly to specific inputs. The knobs work by rotating them clockwise or counterclockwise to trigger different inputs. So, if you want to use the knobs to adjust ABS or TC levels, you can only set them to “Increase” and “Decrease” and then match the corresponding number in the game before adjusting ABS or TC levels.
The steering wheel has a very nice feel to it, and it doesn’t emit a strong electronic product odor when you open it. You can also see stickers like QC01 on the back and bottom of the wheel that give it a very factory-like appearance.
Gran Turismo DD Pro Wheel Base (8 Nm)
Official price: 599.95 USD
The separation of the steering wheel and the base means that in the case of this Fanatec setup, the base provides the steering and force feedback torque, while the steering wheel itself provides the vibrations.
In simple terms, the base is a large, heavy hunk of metal. When mounted on my rig, it’s somewhat unstable (it has quite a bit of wobble when going through corners).
For someone like me who has used a G29 for 4 years, my first impressions of this base, in its 8Nm state, are as follows:
- When high-speed cornering in Assetto Corsa Competizione, there’s some shaking left and right, and even with significant force applied, it’s challenging to keep it stable.
- During straight-line driving, the G29 provides no force feedback at all on the steering wheel (similar to being unpowered), while this wheel has some (although it may be due to not enabling the “Road Effect” in the game).
- Running for two laps at the Nürburgring in the 8Nm state (probably a total of 5 minutes), my arms get as sore as if I had been karting for 8 minutes.
- In the 8Nm state, the direct drive doesn’t feel as smooth as expected in Assetto Corsa Competizione, but it provides a very smooth experience in Assetto Corsa, which could be due to game settings.
Fanatec’s website offers some recommended settings for different games, like:
These settings recommend reducing the Gain in the game to reduce the overall output (possibly to prevent it from feeling like a workout). After adjusting these settings, the force feedback felt more reasonable and less strenuous, making it more comfortable. After about a week of adaptation and occasional push-ups for arm strength, I can now comfortably use the 8Nm setting along with the ACC settings recommended by Fanatec’s website (mainly a Gain of 79%). I no longer find it challenging to use the wheel for extended periods of driving, such as a 1-hour sprint with the AMG GT3 at Monza.
It feels like the AMG GT3’s force feedback is slightly less than the M4 GT3.
I continued to use my existing F-GT Lite rig. The mounting holes on this rig can accommodate the DD Pro base, but the position is not ideal (you can’t use all 4 screws). If you use the 3-screw mounting method, you can’t mount it in the middle of the base mounting plate. However, using only two screws seems to be stable enough and provides a good position. Since the DD Pro base has a significant torque, it causes some wobbling of the base mounting plate when the force feedback is active. I bought a metal rod online to reinforce it.
After adding the reinforcement, the wobbling is significantly reduced, and the accuracy and smoothness of the force feedback before and after the reinforcement are like night and day. If you’re facing a similar stability issue, you might want to consider reinforcing it. The accuracy and smoothness of the force feedback are worlds apart.
After receiving the equipment and adapting for two days (approximately 2 hours each day), the addition of the new pedals and steering wheel allowed me to improve my lap time at the Nürburgring in Assetto Corsa Competizione by 1 second. With the use of pedals equipped with a pressure sensor and the additional ABS feedback from the pedal’s motor, it became less likely to accidentally apply too much brake and trigger ABS, causing the car to understeer. The pedal feel is excellent, especially for trail braking, as you can gradually reduce brake force in the game by slightly releasing the brake, matching the reduction in pedal force. This is unlike the G29, where you need to progressively release the pedal’s travel.
In terms of cost-effectiveness, the “bundle” versions sold on Chinese e-commerce platforms are not a good deal (because they come with their own so-called official power supply). If possible, it seems more cost-effective to import the pedals, base, and steering wheel separately and use a self-made power supply. (Or you might consider buying the base second-hand?)
Now it’s about continuous arm strength training and practice. With this equipment, if I’m not fast on the track, it’s definitely my own fault.