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Test drive: Ascher Racing F28-SC Sim Racing Wheel Leave a comment

As soon as you’ve sent one test wheel back to the office, another one appears for review. I must have the best job in the world at the moment; testing some of the best sim racing wheels that G-Performance has on offer.

And, I’d definitely put the Ascher Racing F28-SC right up there amongst the best.

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As soon as you lift it out of the box you’re met by a real sense of weight and quality. It isn’t heavy, as such – more that it’s just the right weight in your hands.

The box it arrives in doesn’t have quite the flamboyance of a Cube Controls or Fanatec wheel. There are no motivational quotes, accessories or instruction manuals in sight. It’s a no-frills plain box, just with a far from plain item inside.

The box comes packed with some Ascher Racing logo stickers and a wheel decal sticker sheet, with a pack of M5 x 12 mm stainless screws to mount a QR adapter (not included).

What comes out of the box is quite something though:

First impressions

 

The pictures simply cannot do the brushed aluminum faceplate of this wheel justice. It is a wonderfully finished thing with a luster to it that makes you want to avoid finger prints at all costs. It has a deep shine with the patterning from the machining to give an industrial look.

Holding the wheel in your hands, it’s impossible to make it flex, even with huge pressure. The item feels so much stiffer than any of the other wheels we’ve tested.

Ascher Racing F28-SC Sim Racing Wheel close up

The faceplate is 5mm thick, with 12 buttons and two joysticks. The joysticks are those familiar “funky switch” style units with a rotary encoder and multi-directional inputs.

The Ascher logo is part of the anodized finish and serves as an achingly cool reminder that you have one of the most sought after steering wheels by pro sim racers on the planet.

Critically, this is a Simucube Wireless Wheel™ intended for the Simucube 2 Pro so, it is wireless only. It’s quite a surprise to not see a USB port. I found myself looking for one, double checking and looking again!

The wheel will automatically appear in TrueDrive, provided that discovery mode is on in exactly the same way the Cube Controls Formula Sport Wireless wheel works:

What occurs to you is how is this thing powered? The answer, a small battery which is accessed under a small panel on the back of the wheel:

Most wireless wheels can be charged from USB. But clearly Ascher likes to do things differently. There’s no need for a USB cable when the expected battery life is 2 – 3 years with “heavy daily usage”.

The electronics inside, are very efficient. What’s happening is the Bluetooth transmitter and the various components inside run in a very low power state until a button is pressed. As soon as that happens, the internals wake up, and the Bluetooth signal is sent. This is with no perceivable lag. Very clever.

I wouldn’t recommend leaving the wheel switched on overnight, but it does sound like forgetting to power off occasionally wouldn’t be a huge problem.

The wheel

 

The wheel has a lovely presentation to it: simple, and spaciously laid out. The faceplate has beveled edges with nice countersunk holes for the joysticks, and at the edge of the grips, the rubber tapers off ready to guide your thumbs to the nearest controls. There’s a VR friendliness and simplicity to the wheel that VR users like myself really appreciate.

The joysticks have a weighty feel to them that implies they’ll be quite hard wearing. Rubberized grips around the outer of the joystick to help with rotary inputs. Both the joysticks and the buttons will take quite hard inputs, you get the sense this wheel can handle major wear and tear.

The grips themselves are a hard rubber. I’ve seen some wheels reviewed with Alcantara grips. Not so with these. Such is the stiffness of the wheel and hardness of the rubber that you don’t miss a single track detail when you’re driving. Fantastic for F3 sprint races, I’m less sure how it’d go in an endurance race. I would definitely need to wear gloves in long sessions.

Around the back of the wheel we have a thick, milled aluminum casing, with the paddle shifts, on/off switch, battery compartment and Bluetooth aerial.

rear view of wheel

You’ll notice the Simucube Wireless Wheel logo, serial and model number details and the Ascher logos on the paddle shifts.

These Ascher Racing paddles and bodies are manufactured from CNC machined aluminum. The units are supplied with a neodymium magnet, and the lever operates a microswitch. Ascher competent test their microswitches in an automated rig which simulates a gear shift via a paddle press. The target as I understand it is well over 2 million clicks! These items are designed to last and to stay consistent throughout their lives.

Some owners mentioned that these new paddles are slightly noisier than their carbon predecessors; but Ascher supply little adhesive rubber dots in the screw bag. You can adjust the sound, throw and overall resistance with a replacement (weaker) magnet (also supplied).

How to: Mounting to a Simucube 2 Pro

 

Mounting is relatively simple. If you’re mounting with the Simucube SQR hub, you fix the 70mm PCD adapter plate to the back of the wheel and then build up the SQR hub as usual.

If you’re using a different hub, like a Buchfink Q1R, you’ll need an adapter to convert the SC2 to a standard 70mm bolt pattern before mounting the base side of the hub.

I always start by laying everything I’ll need in front of me:

The Cube Controls wheel all come with a handy Universal Hub mount which would be nice to have as a separately available item. The reason I mention this is that the flat 70mm PCD adapter (to the right in the photo above) sits flat on the back of the wheel and doesn’t give a huge amount of depth for the SQR bolts. If you use a bolt that’s too long, you’ll damage the back of the wheel.

Fortunately the bolt kit supplied with the SQR hub has a selection of bolts to choose from. Before assembling, I test to make sure the bolts won’t protrude further than the 70mm plate:

Once the bolts are inserted into the SQR hub base, they protrude about 3.5mm. That’s OK as it won’t damage the wheel, but I do wish I had something a little more substantial. That’s why I believe the Ascher racing equivalent of the plate adapter would be a better fit than the SQR item.

You can mount the PCD adapter with the bolts suppled by Ascher Racing. There’s a bit of a gotcha here; you have to mount the plate so that it gives the SQR hub the right angle for the SQR pin to not interfere with the paddles.

Here it is, all lined up prior to assembly to make sure the pin won’t be a problem (not pin hole top right).

Companies like BG Motorsport make 70mm PCD extensions for Motorsport steering wheels. I think next time I’ll experiment with something like this.

Once you’ve arranged everything correctly, tighten all the bolts properly as you assemble the hub:

And finally the SQR mount:

As you’ll see the SQR has to go on at quite an angle to accommodate the Simucube SQR pin. That’s no problem for the software, of course, as you an just recalibrate the wheel centre. For me personally, I think this would start to get on my nerves. By adding roughly 20mm by way of an hub extension, this wouldn’t be an issue.

And there you have it, a freshly mounted Ascher F28-SC ready to go.

Summary

 

The Ascher F28-SC is easily the firmest, stiffest sim racing wheel I’ve ever held in my hands. The industrial grade build quality is right up there. It makes returning to something like a Fanatec Clubsport wheel a little disappointing; as you can see how a cheaper wheel is built to save on costs. Production wise, no expense has been spared in the development of this wheel. If you’ve got the budget and you want to own one of the best and most talked about sim racing wheels at the moment; the Ascher F28-SC is one to add to the collection.

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