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Do You Need A Clutch For Sim Racing?

When looking for a set of sim racing pedals, you will often find that most of the options on the market only have a brake and accelerator pedal, with the clutch often being overlooked. This may cause many new sim racers to wonder whether they even need a clutch pedal for sim racing.

You don’t need a clutch for sim racing because most games have an auto-clutch system that does the work of a clutch pedal for you. Also, because most sim racing games use cars that have either paddle shifters or a dog clutch transmission, there are few cars that require a clutch pedal.

However, using a clutch can add to the realism and immersion of your sim racing experience, and could also add some performance benefits as well. In the article below, we will discuss the need for clutch pedals and take a look at the types of clutch pedals available to sim racers.

Do You Really Need A Clutch For Sim Racing?

You do not really need a clutch for sim racing. However, if you have already purchased a three-pedal set, a clutch will add to the immersion and realism of your sim racing experience. Almost all sim racing games on PC support the use of a clutch, as do most console titles.

What you may find is that many of the cars on sim racing games have an automatic transmission, which makes the clutch and the gear shifter redundant. Besides automatic transmission, some cars involve paddle shifting, which means drivers use a paddle placed behind the wheel to shift gear, with no involvement from a clutch pedal.

There are plenty of options to use cars with manual gear shifting in the majority of sim racing titles, which will allow users to make the most out of their clutch pedal. Don’t panic if you haven’t yet purchased a three-pedal set, since there are no sim games in which they are mandatory, with most games having an automatic shifting feature that will do the work for you if you don’t have one.

Realism And Performance

If you are designing your sim rig with the purpose of making it as realistic as possible, then a clutch will likely be an essential part of your setup. Using a clutch and a manual gear shifter will provide you with the feeling of operating a real manual car, increasing the number of inputs you must put in to ensure you get around the track efficiently.

Using a clutch also offers performance benefits, especially when cornering, because an automatic shifter may put you up a gear too high when approaching the corner, meaning you’ll have to shift down two gears to get around it, slowing you down for the exit. If you have a clutch pedal and gear shifter, this won’t be an issue, and you’ll have full control over which gear you want to be in.

Tough To Get Used To

An inexperienced sim racer will most likely find a clutch more difficult to use than the automatic shifting provided by the game because it will give them another thing to think about on top of the racing line and braking points etc. However, once you get used to what a clutch pedal has to offer, there is every possibility that it will increase the enjoyment of your overall sim racing experience.

It’s true that a clutch can make your sim racing experience more immersive, but that’s only going to be true if the cars you’re driving in-game also use a manual clutch. For example, if you mostly play the F1 games, you won’t benefit much from a manual shifter as the modern F1 cars use paddle shifters. So, what games do benefit from using a manual clutch?

What Sim Racing Games Benefit From A Clutch?

Sim racing games that benefit from a clutch include:

  • DiRT Rally 2.0
  • Assetto Corsa
  • iRacing
  • Gran Turismo 7
  • BeamNG

It should be noted that these games all benefit from using a clutch most when the cars you’re driving in game also use a clutch.

BeamNG

BeamNG is an independent PC-only sim racing game, known for its accurate car physics. Along with good physics, the developers have clearly spent a bit of time making sure the use of the clutch pedal in-game is effective. There is a whole section of in-game settings where players can customize the performance of their clutch, improving its linearity, resting deadzone, and end deadzone.

Rally Games

Due to the number of inputs that rally cars require to keep them under control, a clutch can be useful in the DiRT Rally games. When throwing a rally car around tight turns, the revs the car produces will drop very quickly, and if you’re in a higher gear, the car will have very slow exit speeds. If you have a clutch and h-shifter, you will be able to go down the gears and build up speed quicker.

Bear in mind that not all rally cars have a clutch and h-shifter feature in them, so it isn’t necessarily a feature you will always be able to utilize. Instead, it’s one that will help you on the odd occasion when you are driving compatible cars.

Do You Need A Clutch For iRacing?

You do not need a clutch for iRacing. Despite iRacing’s constant pursuit of total realism, the only specification of cars that require a clutch to change gear are the Synchromesh H-Pattern cars. There are currently only 9 of these cars within the game, although more may be added in future.

H-Pattern gearboxes require drivers to hold down the clutch and move the gear stick in the pattern of the letter H to change gears. This system is present in most manual cars on regular roads. Most of the other cars available in iRacing either don’t have a clutch pedal at all, or have “dog-box” transmission, where rev matching is an easy way to change gears.

The lack of variety in iRacing for cars that require a clutch isn’t from a lack of desire from the developers to introduce clutch-reliant vehicles, but instead because most racing series now operate with clutchless shifting. This undoubtedly will put some people off spending extra money on a pedal set with a clutch option, especially as iRacing remains the go-to sim racing title for many.

Types Of Clutches For Sim Racing

There are many brands that manufacture three-pedal sets, as well as some that sell clutch pedals separately to brake and accelerator pedals. The Invicta Clutch System that typically retails for under $300 offers users a realistic bite point when they shift gears. It’s operated using springs, which apply pressure when you put your foot down on the pedal.

The only issue with this pedal is it’s only compatible with Invicta and Forte pedal sets, meaning you won’t be able to attach it to Fanatec pedals or any other sim racing brand. If you are looking for a slightly easier option with less separate parts, you should search for a pedal set with a clutch, brake, and accelerator pedal combined.

All the big names in sim racing hardware offer these, with Fanatec, Thrustmaster and Heusinkveld pedal sets offering options for all experience levels. There are also many sets that are included in bundles when purchasing a wheel, such as the Logitech G29 set. This can get a little expensive (typically nearly $400), but with a decent force feedback wheel included, it’s great value for money.

Hydraulic Pedals

For those with a bit more money to spend on their pedal set, prices can rise to over $1,000. Heusinkveld and Fanatec both offer top hydraulic pedal sets that push back against your feet in the same way a real car would. It should be noted that Fanatec only offer a hydraulic damper upgrade kit for their ClubSport V3 pedals, rather than dedicated hydraulic pedals.

The Heusinkveld Sprint pedal set (not hydraulic) is made from laser-cut steel and features an adjustable spring preload for the clutch, meaning it’s adaptable to the user’s requirements. The mathematical tests that went into creating the pedals also means they respond differently to the variety of situations you can put them through, such as rally or track races, much like a force feedback wheel.

Final Thoughts

You don’t need a clutch pedal for sim racing, but having one can enhance the realism and your enjoyment of the game. The number of cars in sim racing that require a manual clutch is usually low, and the usability of paddle shifters outweigh the benefits of using a clutch and H-pattern shifter.