In 1982 Japanese video game company NAMCO released the driving simulation Pole Position for the arcade. The Atari-based game was touted to have “unbelievable driving realism.” How times have changed. Today, most people turn on their Playstation or Xbox if they want to experience simulation racing from such titles as the Gran Turismo or Forza series. Hooked up to a big-screen television and surround-sound, these simulations can be pretty good, but still far from realistic. Flying around the legendary Nürburgring, you get a feel for the twists and turns but there is still that disconnect between driver and car. The more hardcore racing fans often add a race-seat, steering-wheel, pedals and shifter to enhance the experience further. For most home users, this is as far as it goes – for most, but not all, that is.
The next, and ultimate, stage for racing simulation comes in the form of the professionally designed simulator. There are many companies around the world to choose from and each offers varying levels of realism, quality and cost. From a few thousand dollars to well over $100,000, there is a market for race fanatics who won’t mind parting with their money to get that extra bit of driving realism. Many of these systems are glorified video game consoles, providing high-end equipment to give you a better arcade experience when playing Dirt, Forza or Gran Turismo. Some, however, go beyond this and give the user race-quality equipment and simulation software you won’t find on any home console.
Enter CXC Simulations. This California-based company is composed of engineers, racers and race enthusiasts and has been designing professional racing simulators since 2007. Further aiding this company’s simulator development is the employment of former professional team engineers and racers – like former Ferrari F1 and Maserati engineer Josh Allen. CXC’s flagship simulator, the Motion Pro II, is touted to be the only professional-level simulator practical for home use. This means that CXC’s simulator is available to a wide market of race enthusiasts ranging from the elite professional driver to individual race fanatic who wants more than a console-style experience – it can even do flight simulations for those times you want to leave the ground.
One look at the Motion Pro II and you can tell it’s an impressive simulator. Short of having a whole car in your living room, CXC’s design makes it feel like the cockpit of a NASCAR or F1 car has been removed and placed in front of you. The blend of billet aluminum, steel and carbon fiber add to the race car feel. Sitting in the seat you notice the near-authentic race car environment. There’s an MOMO racing wheel equipped with paddle shifters and a whole bunch of buttons and switches to control a variety of functions. In front of you there is an advanced dash display which gives you all sorts of telemetry feedback and indicator lights you’d expect in something as sophisticated as a Formula 1 car. At your feet are the pedals, all race authentic, which includes a hydraulic brake and progressive clutch pedal to further increase the realism of this simulator. It’s a lot to take in at first glance, but impressive in not only quantity but quality.
Drawing yourself away from the cockpit, the visual and motion technology is equally impressive. The standard display provides 1080p and a 60-degree field of view. Upgrading to top-of-the-line display provides three LED 1080p panels for over 6 million pixels and a 180-degree field of view. Helping you feel as though you are in the race and not just watching it, what you see on the screen is translated into what you feel in the cockpit thanks to a low-mass motion system. This helps drivers feel every move and bump instantly with crisp precision not found in heavier and slower systems. Driving sensations are further enhanced with things like a seatbelt tensioner system to aid in simulating braking, as well as a 1500 watt Dolby 5.1 surround-sound system to give your ears a treat.
Perhaps the only thing this simulator is missing is the occasional rain or track debris hitting you and your car. We don’t, nor likely do the guys at CXC, recommend adding this to your simulation experience because of the electronics which help tie all of this simulator’s features together. The ‘brain’ of the Motion Pro II is an Intel Core I7 Extreme processor. This very powerful CPU works with an advanced AMD video card, 16 GB DDR3 RAM and an Intel SSD Hard Drive to ensure the highest level of performance in terms of graphics, sound and simulator experience. What it gives you is a big step up from any console ‘game.’ Instead, on the Motion Pro II you can pick over 1000 cars from a range of motorsports, whether it be WRC, Formula 1 or NASCAR. Then you can race that car on one of 40 precisely mapped and scanned tracks including Daytona International Speedway, Laguna Seca, Suzuka Circuit, LeMans or the Nürburgring.
Still not sold? Consider that a number of professional drivers across the world of motorsport both own and use the Motion Pro II. That is, real drivers use this thing to prepare for real-world races. For the 24 Hours of LeMans race held this past June, several drivers used the simulator to prepare. These including Patrick Dempsey and racer and Porsche factory driver Patrick Long. Other notable people who have owned, used or praised the Motion Pro II include automotive aficionados and comedians Drew Carey and Jay Leno and racing champions Lewis Hamilton, David Brabham, Tommy Kendall and Helio Castroneves.
Of course, all of this doesn’t come cheap for those interested. The standard Motion Pro II setup begins at $49,000. Add in all the goodies, like the panoramic display, shifters, a variety of racing wheels, flight-control package and carbon-fiber body kit and you are looking at over $81,000. It’s expensive, but in terms of race/flight simulators, it’s unparalleled in realism and quality. So, for the richest of you who are itching to show you can handle the Nürburgring in your Mercedes C63 AMG or BMW M5, it may be a safer and smarter alternative to take on what Jackie Stewart called “The Green Hell” from the comfort of your own home. After all, crash the Motion Pro II and all you’ll likely need is a reboot before you’re ready to race again.