The company’s setup in Cranfield is regularly used by pro drivers, but not everyone has their snake hips or Yogic flexibility. Getting in is easy enough, but the rest of it is uncomfortably accurate: I’ve raced a variety of cars and driven a handful of retired Formula One machines, and if the belts aren’t pulled so tight that your eyes are bulging, then they’re not tight enough. Here they’re also pumped up, thanks to those g-force airbags.
The seat is molded to fit your frame and body shape, so the driving position should be optimum. The pedals are beautifully crafted aluminum items, and the pedal box can be moved forward and back.
Now, most sims sit on a sled or hexapod. Axsim’s setup combines an extruded aluminum base and steel tubular frame, and like others it uses an FIA-approved D-Box, which simulates roll, pitch, and heave. But the killer USP here is that the whole rig can also slide sideways up to 18 degrees, replicating the yaw motion that occurs in high-performance driving.
The visuals are supplied by Samsung, with a choice of ultra-wide curved 49-inch gaming monitors, or three linked 4K UHD displays. The built-in audio is from KEF, using its Ci160QR Uni-Q speakers and a Rega io amp. The brains are, surprisingly, nothing special: an Intel i7 Windows PC with an Nvidia GeForce RTX 3060 (we’d have expected a 3080 or 3090 at this price). Just one plug socket is needed to power the entire unit.
The wheel is identical to a high-end single-seater race car’s, a beautifully manufactured—and expensive—tool with anodized switches to alter brake bias, the differential, lap time delta, and so on. It’s supplied by a specialist called Precision Sim Engineering; Max Verstappen has one on his home sim, although I’m not sure he really needs the extra practice.
Axsim’s simulators are compatible with all the leading software titles, and ours is running the Windows PC sim Assetto Corsa. So you can have any car you want, with any setup, on any track, in any conditions. And the company’s offer runs the gamut of superior high-end home entertainment up to a system a pro driver would recognize and happily use. Note: You cannot hook this up to an Xbox or PlayStation, Axsim says. “You could likely get the visuals, but thanks to their closed systems all the dynamic data needed for that pitch and roll would not be there, so the simulator would just sit static,” says simulation development engineer Nikita Miliakov.
All of this comes at a considerable cost. Prices for this full-fat system are just shy of £100,000 ($135,450), but you can start at £39,900 ($54,100) and spec up from there. A stripped-down version, the GFQ Simulator, comes in at a less wallet-thumping £16,400 ($22,234), while a third option sits between these two.
We start at Spa, home to the Belgian GP and the blindingly fast uphill section called Eau Rouge. F1 cars pull approximately 4 g through the right-hander here; at Silverstone’s famously fast Copse corner, the lateral acceleration is almost 5 g. That’s why F1 drivers end up with necks wider than you’d find on a nightclub bouncer.