VR sim racing: Perfecting an at home setup
Rune Huse Karlstad, part of the Varjo Norway team, is a passionate sim racer in his free time. Below is an insight into his journey in evolving an at-home VR sim racing setup.
I’ve been an active hobbyist of VR sim racing for about 3 years now. Coming from Forza and F1 simcade games, I moved to the more professional simulators such as iRacing, Automobilista 2 and rFactor 2 where the physics and racing are more realistic.
My gear has also been upgraded along the path; I started with a Logitech G920, modded with 3D printed parts to look like an F1 wheel, to now using a direct drive wheelbase with a DIY CNC cut carbon fiber wheel, complete with 3D printed parts, and created to be a replica of the Audi R8 GT3 (which is the car I’m mostly racing.)
I’ve even added transducers to my rig, and sofa I sit in, that vibrate when I hit bumps or curbs. This simulates some of the same vibrations found in the real car which helps to make me feel more immersed and connected with the track.
Nothing beats VR when it comes to being immersed in the car, you do actually feel like being inside the cockpit in some of the cars.
After joining Varjo in August and testing the new Varjo Aero headset, I immediately fell in love with it. It is truly a unique HMD, giving you unmatched image quality and comfort. I find myself learning tracks faster, and I see braking points and the racing line more naturally in VR compared to using a monitor (as I’ve used in the past.)
I also have more consistent results as I have a better race line that allows me to drive faster, but also when using VR I can turn my head to see the car next to me when fighting for positions. This allows me to race closer and get that small advantage that I’m always looking for.
Living in an apartment with limited space, and considering that the room I’m using also doubles up as an occasional guest bedroom, an ultrawide monitor or triple screens are not an option due to space. So, VR was a really great fit as it does not take up that much space and can easily be tucked away if needed.
I really like the feature that Varjo Base offers with a virtual desktop. Previously I had to take off the headset to change settings and stuff between races, whereas now I can just leave the headset on the whole time and change things as I go. I can access the desktop and other running programs from inside the HMD.
I’ve used alternative headsets in the past, but they all made me a bit dizzy/motion sick as the image is quite pixelated and the FPS is not too great. Before I was exhausted after 15-20 mins sessions and only used VR for fun in sim racing. Now I only use VR and can easily do 2-3 hours without needing to stop. The comfort and quality of the Aero is just great. With the crystal clear image, and the built-in active ventilation, the Varjo headsets keep my head much cooler and I’m less likely to sweat (this has always been an issue with other headsets.)
For those living in a warmer climate, or are using non-Varjo headsets experiencing motion sickness, I would really recommend adding fans to your rig. Cool air blowing on your face really helps a lot.
My overall favourite simulator is iRacing as it is (in my opinion) the one with the most natural physics and a huge online community where I can really challenge myself racing people from all over the world. The graphics are not groundbreaking, but the experience in the car is great and also there is a great selection of quality cars and tracks. Automobilista 2 has more refined graphics setup and does look more “candy” when racing. It also has support for rain, which is absolutely insane when racing an open wheeler in VR. So I often find myself using iRacing when wanting to compete online, and then using any of the other sims when I want to have a more chill experience.