Go auto racing, but break nothing!

Lionel Kong
Legion of Racers Singapore

Getting into racing simulation games doesn’t have to break the bank and it will improve your driving. Here’s CarBuyer Singapore’s four no-nonsense tips to getting started, within your budget!


Auto racing in any form is an expensive business, but if you’re really keen there’s a way to do it safely and in a controlled environment, while being able to ‘drive’ almost any car you can imagine, in simulator racing!

1. Choose your platform

So you want to pretend to be a race car driver? Or drive an endless cruise in the world’s fanciest cars down the most scenic routes in the world? The 2023 state of play of driving games, or simulators if you prefer to be more serious with your choice of words, allows plenty of scope in realism. Up to 4K screen resolution, uncannily realistic weather effects that even includes full-on blizzard conditions in some games, and A.I. drivers that are getting more human-like in their reactions make for some serious fun.

Gran Turismo 7

How serious? If you have the budget, you can run a full gaming rig PC with a decently large monitor screen. At full operating capacity with the graphics at maximum, driving simulator games are very processor-intensive as they need to power a full grid of more than 30 cars, fast moving track scenery, and changing weather conditions all at once.

Photo by Mikhail Nilov
Errr no, it’s not going to be much fun trying to run and play a driving simulator on a little laptop

You may think it’s fine to get by with a gaming laptop with a big 18-inch  screen, but it doesn’t work out very well when you start including the steering wheel into the whole equation. Almost all gamers will use a standalone PC with a large monitor that’s larger than 30-inches across diagonally.

If you want more flexibility however, console gaming systems are also a great gateway into a simulator racing setup, especially if you already have one for playing other games. As it stands, Sony’s PlayStation 5 and its predecessor the PlayStation 4 are a bit more versatile than their direct counterparts from Microsoft XBox, with slightly better hardware support and power to support the software.

Get some space in front of your living room couch, with your main TV, and you’re all set.

2.Choose your gaming preference

Formula 1? Rally cars? Touring cars? Go-karts? Or even free roam cruising along iconic routes of the world? There’s a game for almost every driving interest. What’s important is that there’s a different level of realism for every gaming title. They start from easy-to-drive arcade styles that have very forgiving handling characteristics that can make you feel like a driving hero, to very hard to master titles that really force you to put hours in to get good.

In between is a wide field that gamers call the ‘simcade’, which, not to get too pedantic about, are titles that can be easy to drive well but still offer a lot of realism to the car handling experience. The present Gran Turismo 7 on PlayStation 4 and 5 is a good example of this category, while it’s XBox equivalent, Forza Horizon 5, stretches across more into arcade territory. 

A classic in arcade style gaming is Need For Speed, still going strong with sequels decades after the original release.

Even the annual F1 Series of games offers up a lot of real competitive excitement, if you have the dedication to race every single event. 

Then there are serious games Assetto Corsa Competizione and Automobilista 2 that span multiple gaming platforms, and the even more competitive, expensive subscription-based games like iRacing, but if you’re so far into the deep end you won’t be reading this anyway.

3. Set your (extra) budget and choose your hardware

Here’s where you’ll want to have some budget in hand. You can play a driving simulator with a gamepad controller if you really must, but where’s the fun in that?

Steering wheels and pedals with force feedback offer up a much more control and detailed driving experience, but you must be prepared to stump up some space at home for it. The easiest solution is to fit the steering wheel to your gaming table and put the pedals on the floor, but with the realism offered these days you will want a stable, non-rolling chair or else it becomes hard to maintain good control and stay comfortable for a decent stretch of time.

There are a thousand schools of thought about what makes for the most exciting, impressive and ‘realistic’ wheel for driving simulators, but the bottom line is that they are just expensive game controllers.

If it’s good enough for F1 World Champion Fernando Alonso, it’s good enough for you!

The Logitech G923 wheel and pedal set is possibly the easiest way to get into a wheel and pedal setup for around S$500 if you look around for deals. It may not have the crazy force feedback power of a direct drive motor steering wheel or the quietness of a belt driven one, but its twin-motor and helical gear setup is very robust and durable. The wheel itself is an evolution of the series that started with the Logitech G25 in 2004. The G25 was the first mainstream series production controller that came with the full three pedals on a base and a separate gear shifter, and was a revolution in its time.

A pair of heavy duty motors in the Logitech G923 create variable resistance and transmit road feedback to your hands through the steering wheel

Better wheel and pedal systems from brands like Fanatec and Moza are configurable but will set you back around S$1,000 or more. They don’t necessarily make you a faster driver in-game, but just deliver the better feel of a piece of quality hardware.

Then at the low end of the spectrum are wheels that have no game-driven force feedback and simply rely on a return spring to recenter the wheel. Unless you’re playing Mario Kart, avoid them entirely as they add nothing to the sim racing experience and you will likely just frustrate yourself with software compatibility as well. 

Not all wheels are compatible across platforms. PC systems tend to be more versatile but consoles are not. For example, you need different variants of the Logitech wheel depending on whether you use a PlayStation or XBox.

A great way to mount the controller is to use a wheelstand, which is a compact platform that the pedals and wheel can bolt to and can be bought for around S$150. The whole contraption can usually be folded up and put aside when not in use, but they are heavy as they are typically made of steel to be stable in use. Some gamers use this system and sit on the coach to play, but we don’t advise it as sofas are usually soft and do not provide adequate support for long sessions.

The alternative to the sofa, if you have space, is to use a stable folding chair and some safari-type armchairs work really well. The key point to note is that the legs are wide enough to support your weight and the chair won’t tip over when you step hard on the brake pedal. 

F1 driving Moza wheel
Dedicated hardware + software rigs can easily run into S$15,000 or more, but you can still spend a fraction of that for an engaging experience.

Of course, you could go the whole way and spend on a pricey driving seat and wheel mount rig if you are ready to dive into sim racing all the way. Plus, there’s also VR goggles, which cocoons you into your own little work but that’s really beyond the scope of beginning sim racing.

4. Go Racing

After you’ve got the machine, game (or games), and controller setup, it’s time to get good. The in-depth sims will take a lot of adjustments and driving time to get it right, so be prepared to strap in for some hours of practice.

Racing sims with free online servers are really a bit of a hit-and-miss, with many of them degenerating into bumper car drives and connecting issues from laggy servers. On the other hand, serious subscription-based racing such as iRacing requires more commitment as online events could be held in European time and they also have ranking systems. Joining a league this way also means you may need to commit to a series of championship races to collect points for a good placing across many races.

Legion of Racers Singapore

Or else there’s always the offline mode found in almost every game. Present-day games allow you to tune the strength of the other computer-controlled cars on track to your skill level so as long as you don’t crash the car or let others crash into you, you can achieve a decent result while honing your skills. One point to take serious note of is that in sim-racing titles, you need to drive like the cars around you are real too, even if you are racing against the computer. Bumping around like it’s Mario Kart is a surefire way to ruin your experience. Get serious and you can sink hundreds of hours into the immersion as you work to perfect your driving line and car setup.

KL street circuit Legion of Racers
The Kuala Lumpur street circuit designed by Legion of Racers

Sim racing facilities and studios like Singapore’s own Legion of Racers have facilities that’s affordably rented out by the hour if you want to have a go at sim racing before committing, and the amazing thing is that they also have custom designed Singapore and Kuala Lumpur street circuits that can be driven on by paying clients, only at their studio.

So yes, you can spend S$20,000 for a big fancy sim rig powered by a fancy computer, or you could pull together your home TV or monitor, a gaming console, a steering wheel and pedal kit, a wheelstand of sorts, sit on the couch and get started.


e-sports Legion of racers logitech sim racing

About the Author

Lionel Kong

An old hand from the bad old days of crazy COEs, the straight-shooting, ex-CarBuyer editor is back in the four-wheeled world. Rumours that he went to another country to start a Judas Priest tribute band are unfounded.

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