Well, it didn’t last long.
Fox Sports 1’s broadcast of the eNASCAR iRacing Pro invitation race at Homestead was a huge success. The race, which featured hugely popular NASCAR drivers, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Denny Hamlin, fighting for victory, opened the doors for a large number of real professional drivers to enter the virtual world.
In addition to a huge crowd of NASCAR aces, you have names like Jenson Button, Juan Pablo Montoya and favorite fan of Robert Wickens (who jumps behind the wheel for the first time since his massive wreck in Pocono a few years ago. years) diving all their toes into virtual waters.
So even if my timing was a little late, at least I’m in good company to go to the virtual race. If you don’t remember, I’m aiming to participate in several iRacing Road Race events and the Forza Motorsport series.
The great thing about this situation is that all of these pros bring a new level of credibility to racing simulation. They have been magnanimous in their praise of the distance traveled by virtual racing and its proximity to racing in the real world, even after the coronavirus pandemic has subsided and real racing has resumed in some way. another.
So now, with all these guys jumping on board, the urgency to make my system work is now gone. Based on everything I learned about the most important factors on which to focus to build a high level sim racing system, I started to work on mine. And when I say construction, I mean construction literally. I decided to try to build my own PC from scratch.
Yeah, I’m kind of a gluttony for punishment.
There were several reasons why I wanted to try to build my own PC. This allowed me to choose the parts that I think were going to be the best for sim racing and to understand how they all worked together. Since this configuration was going to focus exclusively on sim racing, and not so much on other games, business software or Facebook, I could focus specifically on the parts that would allow the system to work best with sims like iRacing, rFactor, Asseto Corsa and racing games like Forza.
The second reason was timing. Of the half-dozen companies I spoke with that specialize in building custom gaming computers, each was four to six weeks on custom building due to the current pandemic. All of their PC technicians had to work from home, creating a fairly large backlog of orders. It had to be a common theme throughout my construction, not only with the PC, but also with all the other components that would make up the system.
Since most of the companies that specialize in sim racing are small businesses, they do not have the capacity to carry a huge amount of inventory. With the global demand for sim racing through the roof, many of these companies (manufacturers and retailers) have little to no stock. With these constraints in mind, I made my choice to go ahead and build my own PC. And try not to shock me in the process.
So, taking into account all of the advice I have received from iRacing and my own research, let me introduce you to all the elements that will go into my sim racing PC.
For my motherboard, I chose the ASUS RoG Maximus XI Hero ($ 278.99 on Amazon). The Maximus Hero XI was designed for high-end gaming and has a set of features such as overclocking optimizations and space for two graphics cards which I might not need immediately but which might be useful in the future.
Speaking of graphics cards, after learning from people at iRacing how important they are to make a SIM card work well, I chose the big, bad (and very expensive) EVGA GeForce RTX 2080 Ti Ultra Hybrid Gaming GPU ($ 1,299.99 on Amazon). It was a great success for the budget, but I think it will be worth every penny once we are operational. With 11 GB of GDDR6 memory on board, the RTX 2080 Ti should be able to easily manage everything I throw at it. The main selling point of this card for me, however, was the fact that it is what they call a hybrid card that uses both air and liquid cooling to keep temperatures under control.
Cooling is extremely important, as one of the biggest problems with the tough operation of a gaming PC is heat buildup. In this case, the PC will reduce performance in order to manage it, which is obviously not useful when you are in the middle of a race. More importantly, in the long run, consistently high temperatures will shorten the life of the components.
For my processor, I chose the Intel Core i9 9900 K processor ($ 549.99 on Amazon). With eight processor cores operating at 5.0 GHz, the Intel chip is pretty much at the top for sim racing right now. I paired it with a Dark Rock Pro 4 processor cooler ($ 89.99 at Amazon) from a company called be quiet! For the same heat management benefits I just discussed.
Next, 32 GB of G.SKILL TridentZ RGB Series memory ($ 164.99 on Amazon). Although 32 GB is sure to be enough, it only works at 3200 MHz, so I have room to jump to 3600 or even 4000 MHz if things get a little slow on the road.
For hard drives, I decided to use Samsung’s fast SSDs using their 970 EVO 1 TB ($ 194.99 on Amazon) and 250 GB ($ 79.99 from Best Buy). These are two internal drives that mount directly to the motherboard and should help load everything fairly quickly.
I plan to put Windows 10 on the smaller of the two disks and use the large 1 TB disk to hold all the apps and data. That way, if I have a problem with Windows (like it never would …), I can just reformat the primary drive and all of my information will be safe on the second drive.
Finally, I need a place to put all these pieces. Space did not concern me so I chose the massif, shut up! Dark Base PRO 900 ($ 252.92 from Amazon). The Dark Base Pro is a Full Tower case, with excellent airflow, which has a bunch of nifty bells and whistles like a Qi wireless phone charger, a tempered glass panel, and really cool LED lights.
LED lights will make you a better player. His science.
So after depositing a grand total of $ 2,911.00 – plus a few extra dollars for things like Windows 10 OS and a mouse and keyboard, etc. – on my credit cards, Amazon and Best Buy had all these bits delivered to my front door in short order. By the way, everything was done and dusted before the call was made to order only essential items from Amazon. (I may be an asshole, but not as much as an asshole.)
Now I just have to put it all together. Just this last little step.
I admit that the physical construction of a PC is not as bad as my recurring nightmares had shown me. For the most part, everything has its place and if you do a good job reading the instructions, it shouldn’t take a lot of time or skill to put it all together. However, there are some fairly important caveats to this.
In order to avoid basic conflicts with my pieces, I used the popular pcpartpicker.com site. This allows you to virtually build your PC and make sure that all of the parts you choose are compatible. However, even if all of the parts I ordered are ready-to-use parts that are generally considered compatible, there are an infinite number of ways to assemble them.
For the people who build a bunch of these PCs, this is not a problem, but for a PC fool like me (I am a hardcore Mac), it requires more than a good deal of “creative thinking”. And race car drivers are not known to have an abundance of creative thinking. If we did, we probably wouldn’t be racing car drivers. This deficit meant that I had to build and then deconstruct my PC several times so that everything was perfectly adapted.
However, it wasn’t as bad as my next warning. Once all the parts are assembled and your newly built PC starts up, the extremely maddening part begins: debugging your system.
I won’t bore you with all the bloody details but I will say this, I would make a really crappy computer scientist. Again, the problem is the personalized nature of the construction. Each component has its own parameters and drivers to make it work. The problem is that many of these drivers are incompatible with other drivers or even with the operating system itself and there is no way of knowing what is causing the problems without doing a huge amount of research.
A big thank you to my “personal” computer scientist Mike Hall who managed to sneak away from his wife and three children long enough to answer my multiple FaceTime calls and help me solve all my problems. (In fact, he probably owes me one because I got him out of quarantine for most of the day.)
The debugging process was no small task and took much longer than the initial build itself. In fact, there are still a few small bugs I’m working on, but nothing that should keep me from being able to run the system at full throttle once the rest of my simulation platform goes hand in hand.
On that note, there are a few other components that I need to complete my editing. Next on my list is a monitor. Like I said last time, I could opt for a single monitor, a triple monitor or a VR headset.
From all I’ve read, virtual reality headsets are a bit of a pain to configure properly and since I just went through debugging hell, they were a non-starter. I really liked the wider field that a triple monitor setup gives, but I always hated that my view was broken by the monitor frames.
I decided to choose a single monitor, but not the standard 16: 9 format, but instead opted for the new Samsung CRG9 49-inch ultra-wide gaming monitor ($ 1,300 at Amazon). With a resolution of 5120 x 1440, the CRG9 is literally like having two 27-inch monitors side by side without this annoying frame in the middle.
However, resolution and screen real estate aren’t the most important thing this monitor can offer. This monitor was designed from the ground up for gaming and offers an ultra-fast refresh rate of 1 ms, which, according to professional pilot and former honcho Sim Raceway Nico Rondet, is a priority.
Nico, in a Facebook article with fellow real-world colleague Guy Cosmo, said, “The 1 ms refresh rate is key. Most monitors are 5 ms. Ultra-fast games are 2 ms … A plasma TV will be 16 ms … All this causes an input lag. The longer the lag, the more disconnection there is between the driver inputs and what is happening on the screen.
Speaking of steering (and pedals), my decision here was fairly easy since I already had a Fanatec Clubsport V2.5 wheelbase ($ 549.95), a wheel ($ 399.95) and pedals (359, $ 95 Fanatec for V3). It was a configuration I used when I was testing the Nürburgring simulation development model for iRacing and it is pretty much the de facto standard in sim racing wheels.
However, as good as this wheel was for me, I decided to improve my game and choose one of the new direct drive wheelbases. So I ordered an Augury H (OSW) wheelbase ($ 1,375 USD) and Huesinkveld Sprint pedals ($ 795 USD) from Teddy O. and the Simulation1 simulation experts in Canada. These guys have provided sim racing gear to everyone, from local hobbyists to F1 drivers.
In addition, Teddy has been a huge source of equipment information. My plan is to mount the Fanatec wheel and pedals to start, then once the other equipment arrives, I will change everything.
Last but not least is the simulator itself. There is currently a huge amount of choice on the market for simulation platforms. However, like almost everything else, many of them are out of stock. Fortunately, Sim Seats in Virginia handcrafted all of their configurations ($ 875) and was able to have one delivered without delay.
It is a fairly sturdy steel tube frame with a good amount of adjustment. It came in three pieces which were super easy to assemble. Everything was put together (including mounting the wheel and pedal) in 30 minutes, making it the simplest part of my Sim racing build to date. The only thing I had to add to the platform was a WRC R racing seat ($ 829 various retailers) from my guys at OMP.
When you add it all up – which you should never do in front of your significant other, ask me how I know it – the final damage is $ 8,085, not including shipping for what is essentially a system medium to high-end simulation. .
OKAY. The PC is built. The rigging is built. And everything has been plugged in and seems to be working. Boogity, boogity boogity! Let’s go race! Next time, I will load iRacing and hit the track.
And most likely, having my teenager kick my ass on a Chromebook at my fingertips. Who knows.
Robb Holland is a professional racing driver and journalist who divides his time between Germany, Colorado and now the virtual world. Her work has appeared on Autoblog, The Drive, Jalopnik and more.