Up until their entrance into the sim racing industry, you might have heard of Asetek as a vendor of all-in-one (AIO) CPU and GPU cooling systems offering products and services all the way from domestic gaming PCs to full-on data center cooling systems.
So, Asetek moving into sim sports is what you might refer to as a bit of horizontal integration – and it makes sense when you think about it. They’re making gaming PC parts, why not start supplying more gaming PC peripherals? And, as a big success with a reported $80m turnover in 2021, Asetek clearly has the resources to develop some very nice sim racing gear. Sim racing is, in fact, a major focus for them according to their Q2 investor relations report and, to give you a sense of scale – this is a company with a higher turnover in revenue than Fanatec. So, plenty of scope to become the market-leading manufacturer in sim racing. That’s what I think, anyway!
And, there’s certainly nothing wrong with a bit of market competition, which to the consumer means a faster evolution of the equipment we’re racing with and hopefully, an improvement in quality at the same time.
So, here I am delighted to be testing out the latest addition to Asetek’s sim racing product stable; with a very special badge indeed: Pagani.
Asetek announced a partnership with world-renowned hypercar manufacturer Pagani Automobili in October last year. If you’re familiar with the Pagani concept: “art and science working hand in hand combined with groundbreaking performance”, you know you have a very special partnership on your hands indeed.
So here we have another sim racing manufacturer working with real-world motorsport and automotive organization. Developments like this really emphasize how significant sim racing is to the real-world motorsports industry.
So, clearly, I’m excited; the Asetek SimSports™ Pedal Set Pagani Huayra R Edition is styled on the real-life pedals in the Pagani Huayra R. While most of us might find Pagani ownership a little unobtainable, we can have the same pedals in our simulators. Very cool. And, while most manufacturers always note they’ve taken input from real racing drivers, Asetek is definitely not kidding when they say this – amongst other big names in racing, Kevin Magnussen is a brand ambassador and contributes to the development of their current and future product line up; including a forthcoming Asetek direct drive wheelbase.
The packaging is fully recyclable which I like a lot – all very carefully designed cardboard packaging with the following contents:
- Pedal set
- Mounting kit – M6 bolts and T-Nuts
- Spare elastomers (of a different hardness)
- Replacement spring for the throttle
- Allen keys for fitting
- Manual / Warranty cards
The contents of the package are precise as you’d expect, with small spares and tools package included:
Provided with the kit include:
- Softer spring for the throttle
- 3mm Allen key
- 5mm Allen key
- 4 M6x20mm Screws
- 4 M6 bolts
- 4 M6 slot nuts (slide bolts / t-nuts depending on what you call them)
- USB C to USB C and a USB C to USB A cable
- 3 Elastomer types: black (softest), white (medium – comes installed in the brake pedal), and green (hardest)
Asetek describes the hardest elastomer as feeling like “kicking a wall” in their manual. Something I really like about their messaging in the manual is the idea that they’ve designed these pedals to match very closely the feel of high-performance racing cars. Brake pedals are rock solid in cars that run on slicks and aero especially. The principle of this is that you can ramp up to maximum braking force immediately, making your brake pressure trace a very steep curve.
This enables you to brake later and not waste any time building up to maximum brake pressure like a softer setting would encourage you to. The manual is very clear and tells you to adapt to these settings, They’re correct with this. On a real circuit in a real car, you (as the driver) must adapt to the feel of the car. No one car feels the same and I’ve never, ever come across a racing driver that said “this brake pedal needs softening up!”. So Asetek is bringing a very refreshing attitude to the use of their products, and I agree with that approach.
Asetek SimSports™ Pedal Set Pagani Huayra R Edition Features:
This pedal set, once installed requires no tools to manage, everything is adjustable manually. The elastomers, pedal positions, throttle stiffness – all of it can be done without tools. The unit features a Pagani embossed cast aluminum baseplate with a built-in RGB strip in the heel plate (which looks cool!), a rubber cover on the underside of the base plate to protect your pedal mounting plate and possibly insulate to protect against any possible EM interference, adjustable throw and return stops on both the throttle and brake, a hydraulic cylinder that contains the elastomer stack with a built-in hydraulic pressure sensor and a hall effect sensor on the throttle.
From Asetek’s own specifications:
- All aluminum pedal base with Pagani embossed branding and integrated heel rest
- Pedal arms and footplates similar to the real-life Pagani Huayra R track car only slightly modified to be adopted for simulator use
- Rock hard brake pedal to mimic the feel of the Pagani Huayra R, including a 2-stage race car braking system with minimum pedal travel
- Unique Twin Hydraulic Opposing Rapid Piston (T.H.O.R.P.™) brake system – designed by Asetek to bring ultimate immersion to sim racers
- Customizable and configurable ARGB lighting that can be controlled with RaceHub™ software or turned off
- Pagani tailored RaceHub™ software that enables quick and easy customization of the pedal settings of the Asetek SimSports™ Pedal Set: Pagani Huayra R Edition. This includes calibration of the dead zones, and throttle curves, and updating firmware simply and efficiently. Support for future Asetek SimSports™ products
The stand-out feature to me is how compact and visually pleasing the design of these pedals is. They come with Asetek’s T.H.O.R.P system which we’ll talk about in just a moment. They’re also extremely easy to fit and I must admit to being delighted with the RGB plate and adjusted that to my favorite shade of purple.
What is T.H.O.R.P?
The intention of T.H.O.R.P (Twin Hydraulic Opposite Rapid Piston) is to create a highly realistic brake system for sim racing. As I mentioned before, real racing cars have very hard brake pedals. It is a fact that a hard brake pedal is faster because you can brake later while trail braking over a shorter distance.
Here’s how T.H.O.R.P works, described by André Eriksen (CEO, Asetek)
There are two stages to braking with this system, designed to mimic how an actual racing car brakes:
Firstly, the “soft stage”: When you apply pressure on the pedal, it will move 10-20 mm while you build up hydraulic pressure. The caliper pistons are traveling to and pushing the brake pads against the brake disc, and to compensate for the small amount of play in all the mechanical parts on the pedal system that is required for them not to seize up. In fact with a race car setup, the trick is to get the pads as close to the disc as you can without them actually applying friction on the disc while you’re not braking! So a very short period of travel is the optimum setup.
Secondly, the “hard stage”:
When hydraulic pressure is built up, the brake pads are squeezing the discs hard, and all mechanical play has been lost. In this stage, your foot is basically “pressing against a wall”, because now your muscles are pressing directly against the hydraulic forces (the brake fluid). Since the fluid cannot be compressed, you will feel the pedal is hard. When a race car driver complains about a “long” or a “soft” pedal, it is typically because there is air in the system. So while you can still modulate this pressure, all of your efforts are going towards pushing the disc against the brake.
Here’s a fast lap in my Radical SR3 rsx – look how quickly the brake pressure ramps up ready for the slower corners:
In the real world, a really good braking system can communicate any potential under rotation of the tyres, especially at the front of the car. One of the best cars I’ve ever driven for this feeling is the Radical SR3. Despite the pedal stiffness, the information is there for you to work with as a driver. In the simulated world, I use a Buttkicker to give me a small cue that a lock may be coming, but sim racers can also set up the brakes so the maximum pressure is at the threshold (where the tyres are giving you maximum stopping power but not locking). Take a look at this guide on threshold braking for more.
T.H.O.R.P has been designed to mimic these two braking stages with the end result being that your technique would be no different with this pedal set compared to driving a Radical, a Formula single-seater, or a sports prototype.
Installation is of course, very easy. This unit is an all-in-one piece, the brake and throttle are mounted to their own pedal plate. This did mean removing my own pedal plate (I was running the SimTrecs Pro Pedal GT before installing the Asetek unit) but installation requires 4 bolts into the t-nuts into my Sim Dynamics rig. If you’re on a flat pedal mounting plate, the mounting measurements are here. I’d think it unusual for you to have to drill if you’re mounting to a pedal plate, but with some thought and care, it’s as simple as using the measurements, correctly marking out the holes, and drilling with 4x ~6.4mm holes.
I used two 40x40mm profile sections running along either side of the unit, with a small bracket to accommodate the offset mounting hole underneath the throttle. It’s worth just laying everything out to make sure it’s square and aligned. It’s just 4 bolts!
Set up and calibration
Astek takes the position that you should try the default setup before making any changes. They have positioned the pedals and set the stiffness in precisely the way they think will provide you with maximum performance. Not forgetting, they’ve taken input from drivers far more experienced than I am, I’m happy to go along with their recommendations!
So, initially, I made no changes to the pedals except for installing their calibration software, Racehub.
As calibration software goes, Racehub definitely gets the award for design:
Pedal calibration is extremely easy, just follow the on-screen prompts:
There’s a bit of dead zone at the bottom and top of each pedal range which is adjustable, but a negligible amount of dead zone is always a good idea, especially on the brake. Of course, I don’t brake at 150kg of force, I feel comfortable applying around a third of that – so using the calibration meant that I’d still be braking at 100% but applying less pressure to the pedal.
You can also adjust the pedal maps, useful particularly for the GT3 class cars – although for this test I didn’t feel the need to make any changes here:
Naturally, I set the RGB strip to match my other RGB. Nice touch!
What are these pedals like to use?
Something that really satisfied me about the way these pedals feel is the inherent stiffness of the brake pedal, without any compromise, it is the racer’s pedal. I wouldn’t be surprised to come across a set of these in an F1 driver’s home sim setup!
Asetek does say that using the brake might feel like hitting a brick wall. As I’ve driven numerous Formula and aero cars including the Radical SR3 rsx, I fully understand this. High-end, prototype racing cars have very stiff pedals. If you want to soften them, go ahead – Asetek have made their setup recommendations while building a pedal set that is incredibly easy to reconfigure to your liking. And without tools!
When you’ve got a huge amount of grip from slicks and aero, you can literally slam on the brakes before trailing off. The faster you put the pressure on, the better. While this isn’t the case with every simulated car (the Porsches need a little tenderness on the initial braking phase), the default setup with this brake is that you can get to maximum pressure in the minimum possible time, saving you tenths of a second in every braking phase. It does take some time to get used to and I recommend driving with these pedals in their default configuration before changing anything.
So braking brings an enormous amount of satisfaction. You may have to re-train your muscle memory, but it is worth the effort.
The only adjustment I felt I needed to make with these pedals was on the throttle, specifically, I adjusted the pre-load on the spring to give a slightly stiffer feel:
Adjusting the throttle pre-load is very simple, just loosening the lock nut by turning it clockwise, then compress the spring by turning the larger thumbnut clockwise, or loosen it (soften) by turning it counter-clockwise. Then retighten the uppermost thumbnut to lock everything in position. Then re-calibrate in RaceHub.
So I’ll be watching Asetek’s sim racing equipment evolution with great interest. So far I think they’ve come up with a unique and very realistic feeling invention that will put a lot of pressure on other manufacturers to improve their own equipment. We’re updating our recommended pedals page with this set (and the Invicta set) immediately after the Pagani set launches. I think that says it all. Kudos, Asetek!