In this article, we’re looking at how the higher end, hydraulic and load cell based sim racing pedals improve the consistency and pace of your driving and we’ll compare our two favourites: the Heusinkveld Sprint vs the Heusinkveld Ultimate pedals.
One of, if not the most important components of your sim racing setup is the pedals. So much of the approach into a corner is determined by your brake trace (the way you apply pressure and reduce pressure as you enter a corner or “trail braking”). The speed in the exit of a corner is determined by your use of the throttle, too much throttle and you’ll oversteer, not enough, you’ll be slow out!
How do pedal inputs affect laptime?
The brake data-trace shown below compares two brake pressure traces into the same corner. In red, a professional driver and in blue, a student driver. The pro brakes later and harder and trails off in a smoother fashion. Even though entry speed is similar, the professional driver is using all of the grip available, braking later and trailing for longer which equates to an advantage of two-tenths of a second:
While this technique is difficult, it is absolutely the key to faster lap times. Get any of this wrong, and you’ll be off the pace or worse, you’ll crash out.
What separates sim racing from real-world track driving (in my humble opinion) is that you can get actually away more with less pedal accuracy on a real circuit in a real car.
Real cars are generally a lot more forgiving of stabby throttle use or clumsy braking, with the only penalty being that you’ll be slow, destroy your tyres and overheat your brakes.
Sim racing is quite different, the tyre models, particularly in iRacing are so sensitive that even a tiny mistake on the pedals will leave you spinning.
iRacing is so competitive at high field strengths that ultra-accurate driving is paramount to a competitive lap time.
If you want to be a fast sim racer you have to get everything absolutely correct almost 100% of the time. It’s hard to do, which is why only a handful of drivers ever make it to pro driver status. Obviously, this is true in competitive Motorsport, it’s just that mistakes tend to carry less of a penalty in the real world.
So if accuracy and control are critical, lower budget potentiometer based pedals are generally not ideal. That’s not to say you can’t be fast on Thrustmaster T-LCM pedals, a lot of well regarded eSports drivers are using them. But, it is an acquired skill to drive a car accurately on lower-end budget equipment, and the technique is less like the one you might use in a real car.
Not all of us can dedicate 10 hours a day to mastering our lap times like a pro eSports driver can, which means any pedal set that can help give you a lifelike response to your inputs is by nature, going to help you improve considerably faster.
If you’re a serious sim racing hobbyist like me, or perhaps you’ve worn out your Logitech G29’s and you’re in the process of a big upgrade, the next step is to consider the amount of realism you want from your simulator. Load cell pedals are best, ideally with hydraulic dampers, pre-load settings, adjustable geometry and stiffness.
This article assumes that you own Fanatec, Thrustmaster or Logitech equipment and you’re looking for more. Or, it assumes that you’ve already decided that you’re making a choice between Heusinkveld Sprints or Ultimates.
Either way, you want to know what the impact might be on your driving and whether the Ultimates over the Sprints would present a significant enough benefit to be worth the additional budget.
Heusinkveld Sim Pedals Sprint
Heusinkveld Sprints are the entry-level pedal in the Heusinkveld range but priced at €699.00 including VAT they’re in the region of twice the price of the Fanatec Clubsport Pedals V3 and 3 times the price of Fanatec’s Elite Pedals LC.
The Sprints have an industrial look and feel to them, with adjustable brake stiffness (by changing the rubber packers and spacers in the brake pedal), preload and pedal angle geometry. They’re quite easily installed if you have some basic assembly skills and, unlike their predecessors, the Pros, have the electronics built on to the brake pedal.
While most of us are very happy with around a 22kg brake pressure, you can calibrate these pedals up to a maximum of 64KG brake pedal force. That’s not far off LMP2 levels of brake force, configured via the SmartControl Software. Though you don’t really have to do any configuration at all (these pedals are plug and play) you can set dead zones, response linearity and save different profiles in SmartControl or use their pre-configured presets.
If you’re keen to drive with the heel and toe technique, then you’ll need the 3 pedal set which includes the clutch too. I’ve found that spacing the pedals around 11cm apart from centre to centre was ideal for my driving style (GT and Touring cars) and if you’re a Formula car driver you might want to set that spacing a little closer.
What stands out about these pedals is the step up in the adjustability you’ll find when you’re driving in the sim.
Trailing into a corner on the brake pedal and controlling the car on the throttle for a good corner exit seems more natural and so much easier to control compared to the Fanatec LC pedals.
The other critical factor is how easy it is to be consistent lap by lap. You’ve got finer, more responsive pedals so it makes sense that your muscle memory can learn and then set the right movements with the pedals. The Sprints made sim racing much easier for me and gave me a first look at just how significant the pedals are to your driving.
Heusinkveld Sim Pedals Ultimate
The heavier and even more industrial looking sibling of the Sprints, designed primarily for professional use (commercial simulation, driver training, racing teams) but have found themselves popular in the consumer market too.
Ultimates are a large step above Sprints. They’ll take significant brake forces (upto 136kg, which is pretty much LMP1 / F2 territory) and offer exquisitely high resolution detail, making the adjustability on both the brake and throttle infinitely better than every pedal I’ve ever tried.
Ultimates are heavier, and need more thought when fitting them to the chassis. You have to find a home for the separate USB controller and naturally, higher forces require a stiffer sim rig chassis, like the P1-X. But with that said, anyone with some light assembly skills (most sim racers!) will not be troubled by the installation.
As Heusinkveld state in their pedal selection guidance:
You want to simulate 1:1 brake forces for all race car types. Although the maximum brake force of the Sim Pedals Sprint (65kg) is already above most other commercially available sets, the Sim Pedals Ultimate allow for up to 136kg of force allowing you to simulate the actual brake force of F3/GP2/F1/LMP/Indycars.
It’s perhaps less known that the Ultimates are hydraulic sim racing pedals – the damper is visible under the spring on this clutch pedal:
Each pedal in the Heusinkveld Ultimate pedal kit features a hydraulic damper: a 1-way damper on the throttle and a 2-way hydraulic damper on the brake and clutch.
The dampers control the depression and rebound of the pedal as you modulate input forces with your feet.
What’s outstanding about the Ultimates is the authenticity of this feeling; the bump and rebound effect from the damper in each pedal feels very well-tuned and really does approximate a hydraulic brake system in a real car particularly well.
I don’t think enough is made of this feature in the Ultimates, the way the dampers smooth out your inputs seems to breathe life into the simulated chassis in a way the Sprints can’t. I think it’s this feature that really stands out in the Ultimates and as a driver, it helps me smooth out my driving and make fewer mistakes.
Should I buy the Sprints or the Ultimates?
If you’re serious about simulation and you have the extra budget, buy the Ultimates safe in the knowledge that you won’t need to buy another set of sim racing pedals for a very, very long time indeed! They have all of the sensitivity and physical feedback that you’ll need to find an awful lot of scope for improvement in your driving.
Naturally, the higher budget isn’t possible for everyone. And on that note, the Sprint pedals are absolutely worthwhile, particularly as an upgrade from Fanatec equipment.
If you’re upgrading from say, a Logitech G29, your first few laps using Sprints will seem like an entirely new Universe. Like the Ultimates, Sprints are exceptionally good pedals and it will take a very long time before you stop improving with them! I’ve been a Sprint owner for well over 10 months now and I still can’t find a reason to upgrade to the Ultimates. Read into that what you will, take your time to make the choice, and enjoy all the racing that follows.