Sim Racing Pedals: Why You Want a Hard Brake Pedal
In this blog post, you’ll learn about essential aspects when choosing your sim racing pedals. To learn more about these specific aspects of sim racing pedals, we’ve included knowledge about motorsports mechanics, braking techniques, and hardware engineering.
It will get a bit technical at times so before we dive into all the motorsports engineering and data, let’s sum up the main point first:
A hard sim racing brake pedal can help to improve lap times because, with a hard brake pedal, you can build more consistent muscle memory and brake later.
Using data and insights from real-life motorsports, we will argue for this statement, but that’s the gist of this blog post. You can learn more about sim racing and motorsport terms right here.
If you’re a visual learner, our CEO André Eriksen provides the technical insights in the video below. Here he also shows how our hydraulic Invicta™ sim racing pedals allow for ‘2-stage’ braking for optimal racing performance:
Regarding the statement above, it’s quite logical, really. Think about it: If a soft brake pedal would help you drive faster, all race cars from Formula to GT would have it. But they don’t.
Competitive racing – both real-life racing and sim racing – is about being the fastest. Every single part of a race car is there to help the driver achieve the best performance. If a component doesn’t support that goal, it’s not a part of the car. It really is that simple.
Of course, there can be variations depending on specific race types (rally, for instance) or the driver’s personal preference. But overall, real racecars have rock-hard brake pedals with minimal travel, and now we will explain why.
The Brake System in a Racecar
The mechanics of the brakes in a racecar consists of the following:
- Brake cylinder with hydraulic fluid
- Brake lines
- Brake caliper with pistons and brake pads
- Brake disc/rotor
The basics of braking in a racecar can be divided into two stages: the ‘soft’ stage and the ‘hard’ stage.
The ‘soft’ stage is the part where you apply pressure to the brake pedal. A hard brake pedal will travel approximately 1-2 centimeters, which is nothing compared to the brake travel in a regular road car. It’s in this stage that you build up hydraulic pressure, and once the hydraulic pressure is built up, you are in the ‘hard’ stage, where the brake pads are touching the brake discs, and all mechanical play is compromised.
In the ‘hard’ stage, you’re basically pressing your foot against a wall because the hydraulic forces (the brake fluid) can’t be compressed anymore. This is what makes the pedal feel hard when applying enough pressure.
It’s quite simple: The shorter the travel distance, the faster you can reach a full stop, and the longer you can wait before pressing the brake. Therefore, a hard brake is faster and more efficient because you can brake later, allowing you to maintain full speed longer.
But how do you simulate the feeling of braking in a real racecar when you don’t have physical braking equipment in your sim rig? That’s where the patent-pending T.H.O.R.P.™ brake system in the Invicta sim racing pedals comes into play.
Authentic Braking with Sim Racing Pedals
At Asetek, we aim to make our sim racing pedals as realistic as possible. Therefore, we have designed the T.H.O.R.P.™ system according to the above 2-stage system. Since you don’t have a physical brake disc, caliper, or pads in a racing simulator, we designed the brake cylinder to simulate those components.
When you use the Invicta sim racing brake pedal, the slave cylinder will compress the elastomer and allow a pedal travel of approximately 20-25 millimeters until it hits a full mechanical stop. This is the ‘soft’ stage.
The ‘hard’ stage is when the slave cylinder is mechanically locked, and – just like in a real racecar – you’re pressing directly against the hydraulic forces. The feeling is NOT simulated, and therefore you can keep pressing the brake pedal up to 100 bars of pressure (185 kilograms).
High End Sim Racing Pedals: Differences in Data
But just what difference does the combination of a short travel and hard pedal actually make when racing? Using the Invicta sim pedals, we ran a test using T1 at Barcelona.
You can see the test in action in the video above (from 11:13), but you can also see it here:
As we said at the start of this blog post: A hard brake pedal can help to improve lap times because, with a hard brake pedal, you can brake later.
The technique for this is called trail braking. Trail braking is a combination of braking hard and then slowly taking your foot off the brake as you turn and increasing speed again.
In the example above, the hard and short brake pedal means we can get 6 meters closer to the apex of the corner before braking. This translates to 0.3 seconds saved!
The gain is, of course, dependent on your current hardware. But even if the difference is as little as just 0.1 seconds, think about it:
Multiply the split seconds saved by several turns and repeated laps on a given track; you have what can make the difference between success and failure when sim racing at home.
Brake Hard and Efficient With The Right Pedals for Sim Racing
Now we’ve made our argument.
There is a reason why a racecar has a hard brake – it’s simply more efficient. With this blog post, we hope we’ve been able to explain the engineering behind racecar mechanics and how sim racing hardware can be designed to simulate that.
It’s difficult to describe the contrast between 2-stage and 1-stage braking if you have not tried both or are used to the long travel of an ordinary road car. But trust us: real race drivers or dedicated sim racers such as reviewers can testify to the difference.