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We Tried the World’s Most Expensive Racing Simulator

May 9, 2024 7:37 AM

We Tried the World’s Most Expensive Racing Simulator

Dynisma’s $2 million rig is state of the art. Just ask Ferrari, which has one for its F1 team. Now that a consumer model is in development, we decided to test the ultimate driving simulator.

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Photograph: Dynisma

A lot can happen in 150 milliseconds. Light will have traveled around the Earth’s equator (and then some). A honeybee’s wing will have flapped 30 times. The M13B pulsar located in the constellation of Hercules will have rotated more than 42 times. All this in the blink of an eye—which, incidentally, also takes about 150 milliseconds.

Milliseconds are also crucial in the world of racing simulators. Why? In order for any simulator to do its job well, it needs to seem as real as possible, as convincing as it can be. Latency—the delay between something happening and the person “driving” being told it is happening—is the enemy of racing simulators as it destroys the illusion of realism.

Now, most good home-racing sims—even high-end, luxury ones like the stunning Prodrive (designed by Ian Callum, formerly the director of design at Jaguar, no less)—have a latency of around 50 milliseconds or more. This sounds pretty good, but by adding these 50 milliseconds to the reaction time of an average F1 driver (200 milliseconds), you increase reaction time by 25 percent.

Furthermore, the disconnect that those initial 50 milliseconds has on the driving experience—however slight—is detectable by the brain, which is one of the main reasons why driving a racing sim, while certainly entertaining, normally doesn’t ever come close to the real thing.

See how WIRED got on racing against a pro driver in the world’s most expensive driving simulator.

This is where Dynisma enters the race. Based on the outskirts of Bristol, in the west of England, Dynisma was founded in 2017 by former McLaren and Ferrari Formula 1 engineer and simulator expert Ash Warne—not just for improving racing simulation, but also to service the increasingly key role that sims are playing in road-car development for an industry that spends spends £7 billion (around $8.8 billion) a year on physical prototypes. Better sims means fewer prototypes means saving money.

But to persuade F1 teams to abandon their own super-expensive, bespoke, in-house simulators—and also to persuade car manufacturers to use Dynisma’s tech to hone potential road cars—Warne and his team had to develop a sophisticated driving simulator that could drastically reduce latency to a point where the brain cannot distinguish any lag at all.

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The Dynisma sim’s secret is a super-low latency of 3 milliseconds so it feels like you’re really racing.

Photograph: DYNISMA

Using, among other developments, super-low-friction struts and motors, Dynisma has pushed its simulator latency down from the usual 50 milliseconds to as low as 3 milliseconds. The effect is that your brain feels things as they actually happen. Such speed also means that the sensation of road hits, such as kerb strikes, are provided faster than even 240-Hz projectors are able to keep pace with.

Bandwidth is the other major improvement for Dynisma. Aeroplane sims don’t require very high frequency inputs (unless the flight is going very wrong indeed), but cars encounter speed bumps, rumble strips, sawtooth kerbs, cat’s eyes, and so on. This means the sim needs to vibrate at very high frequencies with ultra-low friction and no recoil to be as realistic as possible.

Thanks to the stiffness of Dynisma’s drive mechanism, the lack of friction, and even the weight of the base of the simulator, its system’s bandwidth goes up to 100 Hz, supposedly 50 percent better than competitors. This thing can even convey oversteer realistically, in real time, allowing drivers to sense when the back end of the car is about to step out, and not justafter it happens.

The result is the definition of cutting edge. A new type of driving simulator that is so good, and so realistic, it is now the one used by Ferrari's F1 team. But such innovation does not come cheap. Costs of a Dynisma rig venture up to more than $12 million if you check everything on the spec list, including a wraparound 360-degree 240-fps 4K LED screen with audio package to match. We tested the almost-entry-level $2 million package.

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A wraparound 360-degree 240-fps 4K LED screen provides the ultimate visual pairing for the system.

Photograph: DYNISMA

If you want to see how WIRED coped with such overwhelming kit, check the video above, where, to our shame, you will also see pro racer and pro sim driver George Boothby school us in how it’s really done, hooning around a super-accurate simulation of Monaco’s grand prix circuit.

We will say, however, that the experience was jaw-dropping—unlike any simulator we’ve ever encountered. You feel 5-millimeter steps in the asphalt through the seat; corners approach with alarming speed; your heart rate hits 200; when you crash you have genuine, palpable fear you're about to end your days. If this is what it’s like to drive an F1 car, we want no more part of it, and helmets off to those brave individuals who do this for real, for a living.

For those of you who do fancy yourselves as proper racers, and want to try out Dynisma’s rig, there is good news. Right now, Warne and his team are working on a “scaled down” consumer version of their $12 million rig, one that you can own and enjoy at home. They are looking to hit around the $600,000 mark, and say, all things going well, it should be ready in 18 months.

Yes, admittedly this is still eye-wateringly expensive—but if it’s even half as good as Dynisma’s astonishing F1-approved current racing simulator, it will be worth every penny.

Jeremy White is senior innovation editor at WIRED, overseeing European gear coverage, with a global focus on EVs and luxury. He also edits the TIME and WIRED Desired print supplements. Prior to WIRED he was a digital editor at the Financial Times and tech editor at Esquire UK. He makes… Read more
Senior innovation editor

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