Seat Mover Motion Simulators Are Not Designed for Motorsport Training
A seat mover type motion simulator is probably not the best choice for learning how to drive a race car, here is why
Seat mover type simulators are popular as an inexpensive solution to simulating pitch and roll motion. The seat moves while the steering wheel, pedals and shifter (among other critical cockpit elements), remain fixed and motionless. The approach of a seat mover type sim, as contended by makers and adopters of this method, is to attempt to trick your brain into believing you are feeling G-Forces acting on your body, even though you are not experiencing any G-Force. The result of a seat mover method is a constantly changing relationship of position, distance and orientation between the driver and their cockpit while trying to drive a race car, at speed, in a racing simulation such as iRacing or Assetto Corsa.
This method of motion simulation introduces several key elements that do not exist in real world race cars. Seats don’t move in cars and the relationship between a driver and their cockpit doesn’t change in a real car, on purpose.
It starts with the driving controls. Your steering wheel, your pedals, your shifter, the very things you need to perform, do not change position relative to you in a real race car. You specifically decide how far away and at what angle they should be. You do this for comfort and for performance. With a seat mover simulator, the seat moving towards and away from your wheel and pedals, and left and right, this relationship between you and the critical components needed to pilot the simulated race car is constantly changing. The wheel and pedals stay motionless while the seat is moving around in the name of G-Force trickery..this relationship doesn’t change in the real race car, and so why should it in a sim?
But it gets worse. Another major drawback to moving the seat around in a sim like the seat mover approach is that the visual/graphical system also does not move. As the seat moves around to try and create a sensation of G-Force the visuals stay fixed, stationary, and motionless. What this means is that the relationship between the driver and their perspective through the windshield into the driving environment is also changing all the time. This issue is compounded by the fact that the relationship to the driver and their mirrors, and any onscreen/graphical gauges and controls inside the cockpit are also not constant, changing as the seat moves about. This element is also not present in the real world as the driver’s relationship to the mirrors, gauges, or anything else in the cockpit doesn’t change in a real car while the car is being driven. As a car, real or simulated, rotates and translates around the track the driver should expect that looking forward, or anywhere, that the location to which they are expecting to look for any piece of information related to the race, is consistent.
But that isn’t true in a seat mover.
Or that when they look to the APEX in turn 7 at Road Atlanta, that APEX is in the same place it will be in the real car.
But that isn’t true in a seat mover.
The same goes for all of the mirrors, you know where they should be…
But not in a seat mover.
The result of these facts is that the driver of a seat mover type simulator can never expect anything in the cockpit to be where they will be in the actual race car. In the real car, you are strapped into the seat, and the seat is designed to be exceptionally rigid and sturdy. Top level teams make 3/4″ thick carbon fiber seats to ensure that they don’t move, they don’t flex, and they don’t bend. Five and six point harnesses are pulled down tight to ensure the driver is safe, and one with the cockpit. When you strap into a race car, you set your distance to your steering wheel and your pedals. Intentionally. You spend time on this. It is important. It is a matter of comfort, and of performance. You intentionally go through this process, and adjust your seat position to line up your ideal relationship with those controls. You practice knowing where the pedals are located. Over and over. You are going through serious training, building muscle memory, setting yourself up to perform to your best. Your shifter is right there, right where you expect it, and when you need it. The wheel and pedals at the ready. The view to the track ahead, and glancing angles to your mirrors preset, pre-defined, and pre-determined. You have practiced this way. You have been in the car, in this cockpit, training so that when race day comes you know every square inch. You know where the wheel will be in your hands. You know how, when, and where to look at the right side mirror for long enough to see who is coming up behind you approaching the bus stop at Watkins Glen. All while not losing control of the car and keeping it on the edge of adhesion.
Now, introduce the idea that your sim, the very thing training you for race day, is going to be shifting the seat around causing the shifting of your eyes and your head in an attempt to compensate your view and perspective for seat movements. You will also have to compensate for seat movement in keeping your feet on the pedals and searching for that shifter. If you are lucky enough to keep your hands on the wheel while the seat is dancing around, be prepared to have to ignore that distance and angle exercise for comfort and performance. Sometimes you will be thrust into the wheel and sometimes you will have trouble reaching it. Further, seat movements which change your perspective out of the windshield, toward the mirrors, and at any other critical information necessary while driving at speed, every millisecond will have to be accounted for. Your training in this seat mover environment, where everything is so different from the real thing, seems no longer very useful.
Don’t worry, SimCraft has your motorsport simulation training covered. Designed, on purpose, to be real.