Driving Prodrive’s $47,000 simulator makes you feel like a maestro
It’s the Steinway of simulators. A beautiful piece of craftsmanship where form and function combine to empower the player.
Taking center stage in the slightly fusty foyer of London’s Royal Automobile Club, the simple, elegant design of the Prodrive Racing Simulator is a stark contrast to the traditional surroundings, yet like a signature piece of furniture it commands attention without effort.
For Prodrive boss David Richards, that was exactly the idea: To create a racing simulator that needn’t be hidden away in a garage or games room, but could take pride of place alongside a grand piano or Eaves chair. To that end, he invited Ian Callum, former design boss of Jaguar, to shape the sim, and with 16 layers of ash wood and carbon fiber he has crafted an objet d’art that also happens to be a hoot to drive.
The central tub is carbon, seemingly hanging weightlessly within its wooden frame. The interior is trimmed in Alcantara, a Cobra Nagaro leather seat sits atop carbon fiber runners for adjustment, and the AP Racing pedals can be moved fore and aft at the touch of a button.
Stepping over the side and dropping down into the tub, it feels like a modern supercar—the Alcantara headlining giving an enclosed cockpit feel, yet thanks to the open sides you won’t bash your elbows or feel claustrophobic. Immediately ahead is a quick-release multifunction Precision SIM LM Pro yoke-style wheel, which suits the circuit driving of the pre-installed Assetto Corsa, however a circular wheel can be swapped in if arm-twirling rallying is more your scene. Behind the wheel is a massive 49-inch Dual-QHD 5k curved monitor, which is so wide that you have to either have amazing peripheral vision or turn your head to see the data displayed in its corners. Power comes from a bespoke gaming PC with a 12 GB Geoforce RTX graphics card and 16 GB of memory, while the soundtrack is taken care of by Bowers & Wilkins.
Spa-Francorchamps and a McLaren GT3 have been loaded up, and the force feedback is set to seven newton meters of torque out of a possible 26. The brake pedal is race-car firm. I haven’t tried Assetto Corsa before, as my sim racing is limited to Gran Turismo on the Playstation, and first impressions while going out on cold tires: the sim is calibrated more realistically, the car is more predictable than the vehicles in GT, and my Logitech G29 is woefully inadequate compared to a pro setup when it comes to feel. Mostly it’s the braking, where the realistic movement and force required on the pedal makes it so much easier to moderate stopping. Within two tours, I’m flat through Eau Rouge and the lap times are tumbling. If I didn’t have to get home to write this I’d still be there now.
Prodrive’s Oliver Wood says that among the many racing drivers that helped perfect the setup were Darren Turner and one Mercedes-AMG F1’s regular sim drivers. No wonder it feels just right.
More than that though, it looks so stunning that customers are already designing rooms around it. One buyer has even asked if his can be hoisted aboard on his yacht, which sounds rather like a recipe for motion sickness, to me. Still, if you have the space and the means, you won’t be disappointed no matter where you install this work of art.
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