Featured image: Thrustmaster Open Wheel Add On
For more than three decades, Thrustmaster has been developing high-tech gaming equipment to deliver a fun and realistic experience. For sim racers, the company has long been a go-to brand, especially for beginners, as the price point of their merchandise allows it to be affordable while remaining professional and durable.
However, this doesn’t mean to say that there aren’t expert drivers out there using Thrustmaster products, and in fact, some of the quickest and top-ranked sim racers in the world swear by the brand’s usability, compatibility, and reliability.
With that in mind, I’m going to present some of the company’s best and most popular hardware that’s currently on the market, and I’ll go even further than that by showing you how to modify Thrustmaster’s equipment to squeeze out as much performance from their cost-efficient gear as possible.
- T300 / TX Racing Wheel Servo Base
- 599XX EVO 30 Wheel Add-On Alcantara Edition
- Ferrari 250 GTO Wheel Add-On
- Rally Wheel Add-On Sparco R383 Mod
- T-LCM Pedals
- TH8A Shifter
- TSS HANDBRAKE Sparco Mod+
Let’s start things off with a quick bit of history about the brand, and as you’ll see, it’s far more established than many of its competitors in the sim racing arena.
Thrustmaster: company backstory
Founded in the United States in 1990, Thrustmaster began its early days with a combination of engineers and pilots from the U.S. Air Force, Navy, and NASA. Drawing on its know-how and technological expertise, Thrustmaster began to develop products for flight simulation and design headsets and controllers for video games. The company’s primary goal was, and still is, to make peripherals that offer extremely accurate gameplay, providing a completely immersive experience with optimal realism across numerous platforms.
Since its inception, the company’s products have been used by both video game enthusiasts and casual gamers alike, and for the market segment that it caters to, it remains hard to beat in terms of the realism and immersion level of its gear.
Another thing that I’d like to mention before we move onto the products is Thrustmaster’s ecosystem. This essentially allows you to connect all of the brand’s peripheral components such as pedals, shifters, handbrakes, etc., all through a PC via a single USB connection.
This has a couple of distinct advantages. Firstly, it allows you to make fine-tuning adjustments to braking force through a single software package. Secondly, it reduces the number of physical USB connections required, which is quite important for several different reasons.
It’s easy with today’s hardware to overwhelm the USB drive on your PC and start experiencing random interruptions as a result, plus some older sim titles don’t play well with multiple input devices plugged in, and it can be a real hassle to get them working if they work at all. Therefore, using Thrustmaster’s ecosystem will allow you to connect your parts together effortlessly, and it will also help provide smoother gameplay.
There are also some very nice mods available:
Now that you know a bit about the brand’s history and what it’s capable of, let’s break down what sim racing equipment I’d like to showcase. First, we will look at some of the company’s flagship wheel and wheelbase offerings, followed by pedal sets, and then move onto some add-ons such as handbrakes and shifters.
T300 / TX Racing Wheel Servo Base
As not to confuse matters, the T300 and the TX are two separate products offered by Thrustmaster; however, they are essentially the same unit but offer different compatibility. The T300 is compatible with PS4 and PC, and the TX is Xbox One and PC compatible, meaning PC users can take their pick between the two units.
A quick search on Thrustmaster’s website will show that these wheelbases can be purchased with a multitude of bundle packages, coming with different choices of both rims and pedal sets, such as the T300RS GT package for the PS4 and the TX Racing Wheel Leather Edition for Xbox One, however here I’m only going to be discussing the Servo wheelbase as this is the heart of the product.
Having used the T300 Racing Wheel Servo Base for a couple of years myself, I can share a fair bit of insight into the feel and realism factor this wheelbase has to offer. To keep things simple, I will be referring to it as the T300 from hereon in, but whatever I mention about the T300 should also stand for the TX wheelbase. The first thing that caught my attention with this wheelbase is the smoothness of the force feedback delivery.
I’ve used other wheels at this price point, and many of them have a notchy feel to them, but the T300 is much silkier. In my T300 unit, the motor has ample power on tap, and I’ve never experienced any force feedback fade when racing for long sessions, although some users out there have reported this issue with their wheelbases.
Of course, the most crucial things a force feedback wheel must do is relay what a car is doing to our hands. A good wheelbase allows you to feel the front end of the car as it gets light when the rear tires exceed their grip limits and make steering input corrections to keep the car from spinning out of control. The bottom line is that the T300 can do that without a problem. I also like that this wheel has a Hall-effect sensor setup for reading the motor shaft position as it will help give a longer service life than if Thrustmaster had decided to cheap out and use a physical positioning sensor as these tend to wear out after a while.
Mounting solutions for the T300 are comparatively straightforward, and the base can either be bolted to a desk with the provided desk clamp, which works pretty well, or it can be hooked up to a sim racing frame using the M6 mounting holes on the underside of the unit.
If you decide to purchase a T300 or TX wheelbase, it won’t be of much use until you also buy a wheel, or as we sim aficionados say, a rim. A great thing about the Servo bases is that they feature quick-release technology, which makes changing between different rims simple and relatively fast. After you make the purchase, you’ll also need to make sure you set it up correctly, so be sure to check out some of the configuration tutorials that can be found on Youtube.
This fantastic setup explanation works for all Thrustmaster wheelbases on iRacing.
As I mentioned, Thrustmaster uses an ecosystem that allows for a wide range of rim options for the T300, so let’s check out some of their best ones that you can easily attach to one of these bases.
599XX EVO 30 Wheel Add-On Alcantara Edition
Starting with one of my favourite rims from Thrustmaster we have the 599XX EVO 30 Wheel Add-On Alcantara Edition. This is an 8:10 scale version of the Ferrari 599XX EVO real-life car meaning it has a diameter of 30 cm. From the extra padding and buttons to the wheel’s D-shape, it’s a very life-like replica of the real car.
It features the same hand-stitched Alcantara imported from Italy as a real Ferrari. In fact, the material on this rim comes from the same factory that supplies Ferrari which certainly increases its cool factor.
There’s also some polyurethane padding under the Alcantara creating another layer between the metal, making it one of Thrustmaster’s most comfortable rims to use. The wheel’s structure is identical to automotive standards and has an integral hoop made of steel for improved transmission of driving sensation and force feedback effects. This rim also features a 2 mm thick brushed metal central steering plate, so it’s good and solid and has no flex whatsoever.
It comes with the paddle shifters, has six buttons on the wheel face along with a toggle switch that doubles as another button if you push it bringing the actual total to seven, plus a multi-directional D-pad. The toggle switch is a nice touch as it acts as a dial which can be used for in-car adjustments such as brake bias.
If you still think that’s not enough buttons for you, you may want to consider getting a button box, which is a separate component you can add to your sim rig to assign multiple functions to. I’ve recently posted a different article which goes through some excellent button box options and explains in further detail how these devices can assist your driving.
Ferrari 250 GTO Wheel Add-On
Next up is another Ferrari replica steering wheel, except this time in a much more classic and elegant package. As far as Thrustmaster products go, this rim falls into its premium line up and is arguably the brand’s most exceptional and luxurious piece of kit for sale.
To give a bit of background to the product, the Ferarri 250 GTO was and still is a very rare Ferrari as only thirty-six were manufactured between 1962 and 1964, and for its time the car itself was a stunning piece of engineering. As a homage to celebrate the 55th anniversary of the Ferrari 250 GTO, Thrustmaster has treated us to this fantastic replica rim which exhumes class and sophistication.
The wheel is aimed at a very niche and specialist market and gives any Ferrari fans or those who want a pure driving experience the chance to own a very authentic piece of equipment. There’s not much to say here in terms of buttons or other features.
As you can see, it’s a steering wheel, and it’s about as basic as it gets in that sense, but it’s all you need. It’s all about the driving, and it’s all about manual gears. Which is why you’ll also need a shifter, but we’ll get to that later.
The detail of the wood and the metal on this thing is genuinely stunning. All the workmanship that has gone into manufacturing this wheel to make it as life-like as possible means this authentic replica provides a unique vintage feeling in PC games and a superb collector’s item to display proudly.
Like the 599XX EVO rim, this is also an 8:10 scale replica, but comes in slightly larger at 33 cm in diameter, with a natural wood finish, metal faceplate, and chrome logo plate.
Rally Wheel Add-On Sparco R383 Mod
Moving away from the chic and graceful world of the GTO add-on, let’s move onto something I’m far more familiar with, and by that, I mean the domain of rally racing. Although the Thrustmaster Sparco R383 Mod may not be in the same league as the GTO wheel in terms of panache, it unquestionably stands toe-to-toe with it in terms of realism.
It comes in at the same 33 cm diameter as the real Sparco R383 and features a suede wrap rim that is thick, feels great under your hands, and adds an extra element of control. This rim gives you fantastic grip but importantly isn’t too soft between the suede and the padding underneath it. It’s also really sturdy, with basically no flex at all.
While this wheel is primarily intended for rally games, it’s also a very strong contender for oval racing. In both scenarios, the 33 cm diameter is the sweet spot; any smaller and your hands start to get too busy and any bigger will make you feel as if you’re driving a bus. This rim also boasts a collection of nine action buttons and two large adjustable wheel-mounted sequential paddle shifters.
Two more essential features this wheel incorporates vital to performing well in rally racing are its shape and thickness. Being a perfect circle allows you to slide the rim in your hands and means your less likely to lose control in a drift, which is a significant component of rally driving, while the extra thickness compared to almost any other rim on the market is just so much more comfortable for this discipline.
As Thrustmaster’s top-shelf offering in the pedals department, the T-LCM pedals are the first made by the company to utilise a load cell. If that means nothing to you, make sure you check out my Pedal Buyers Guide which goes into detail about the different types of technology used in sim racing pedals. The T-LCM also supports Thrumaster’s trademarked “H.E.A.R.T.“, their Hall-effect sensor technology. In this pedal set, H.E.A.R.T. is found in the throttle and the clutch. The load cell is located in the brake pedal and is rated for 100 kg of which is ample for most sim racing situations.
I like how the brake pedals force adjustment is made with this set, as it’s easy to change out the springs and there is enough variation in strength to satisfy most users. The Hall-effect sensors on the throttle and clutch pedals should also see you through many years of service as they’re less susceptible to dust and lint created issues found on many potentiometer-based pedal sets.
The cast aluminium pedal levers lend themselves to an industrial look which I quite like. The pedal faces have plenty of room for adjustment, meaning you will not have any problems getting them into a position that will suit your driving style. Weighing in at almost 5 kg, this is quite a heavy unit, and it uses a mixture of metal and plastic throughout. It’s nice to see that the company has upped its game with this product, as pedal sets is one department where Thrustmaster having been trailing behind other manufacturers for years.
As a side note, some companies produce third-party aftermarket modifications for this pedal set. One great example is the APEX V2R Performance Brake Mod developed with real-life racing instructors and Thrustmaster sponsored sim racers. The purpose of this mod is to simulate a hydraulic feel to take your T-LCM pedals to the next level. You can also find video guides, such as the one below, to help walk you through this product’s installation process.
TH8A add-on shifter
The TH8A add-on shifter features an H-pattern and a sequential mode, and it can plug directly into the T300 or TX wheelbase, or it can be used as a standalone device on PCs via the provided USB cable.
The use of metal in its construction and a refined mechanism makes for a great shifting experience in H-pattern mode. The gate has a very positive feel, but the resistance is relatively light and unrealistic. The TH8A falls short in sequential mode, and shifts don’t have any positive click to let you know the next gear has been engaged. The resistance is very light, and overall, I would describe the sequential shifting experience as usable at best.
Furthermore, switching between H-pattern and sequential mode is a tedious process involving undoing the gear knob, removing four screws, removing the top plate, rotating the entire mechanism, replacing the top plate, and then repeating these steps in reverse to swap back. The procedure is not awful, but it’s also not something you’re going to want to do too often as you bounce between different cars. All is good for the build quality, and the materials are satisfactory for this price point.
TSS Handbrake Sparco MOD+
To round things off, I’d like to show you one more peripheral if you’re considering buying the Sparco R383 rim. What better way to complement a rally rim than with the Thrustmaster TSS HANDBRAKE Sparco Mod+, an item featured in our sim handbrake buyers guide. This serious piece of kit is a sequential shifter and analogue handbrake, and like the TH8, it can be used on all the major gaming platforms with a compatible wheelbase and on a PC as a standalone product.
This metal monster of a sequential shifter and handbrake is much more rugged than the TH8A, and it’s a step up in terms of build and materials from the lower-priced unit. The shifter’s feel is direct, and it has a responsive click, so if you’re also looking for a handbrake to complement your sim rig, this is an excellent choice.