Sim racing and virtual races exploded into the limelight during the pandemic as real-life racing was banished to the pits permanently. Not only did sim racing gain plenty of track positions ahead of the real thing, the thrust into the main race also accelerated its growth and development.
Bridging the gap between physical motorsports and the virtual world, BMW and Fanatec have developed a gaming wheel that’s identical to that found in the new 2022 BMW M4 GT3. Yes, the very same wheel in the racecar will be able to function as a wheel for your sim racing rig and vice versa.
It’s not a marketing ploy though, the wheels are built on the same production line and will slip off the Fanatec PS4/PS5 wheel base and right into the racecar.
The wheel itself is constructed from eight layers of carbon fibre. It weighs a meaty 1.4kg and is 310mm across. You’ll find 14 push buttons for various functions with 12 on the front and the remaining two behind. According to Fanatec, the buttons require 700g of force to actuate, so no mistakenly activating functions; proper racecar stuff.
Of course there’re paddle shifters, magnetic in design for that perfect tactile feedback. Furthermore, the paddles are a push and pull design that allow for up and downshifts with the same paddle. Three rotary dials are for various engine maps and other settings. Lastly, information is fed to the driver via the 1.0-inch OLED screen.
Though you won’t come across anything more than a passing breeze in your living room, race environments on the track are a different ballgame altogether. As such, the Fanatec wheel has an IP65 rating for dust and water resistance as well as “meets rigorous environmental condition specifications for shock and vibration.”
“You have to take your hat off to the pioneering role that BMW Motorsport and Fanatec have taken on here, and to the courage to implement a project of this kind. I know the people who were involved in the development at BMW Motorsport and at Fanatec, and never doubted that they would design a superb steering wheel,” enthused BMW works driver Philipp Eng about the revolutionary wheel.
He goes on to add that the new wheel possesses superior ergonomics over the outgoing piece in the current BMW M6 GT3.
The Fanatec wheel should be out in the first half of 2021 but that’s hardly the issue here. We’re wondering if we’ll have to sell just one or both of our kidneys on the black market to buy it because let’s face it… this is a proper motorsports-grade wheel and those cost well into the five-figure range. So, both kidneys then.