In 2020, eSports got a massive shot in the arm thanks to the shutdown of sporting events across the world. Here in Australia our top racing category, Supercars, turned to eSports to keep fans engaged. Formula 1 also did the same, and through this global audience, sim racing gained new notoriety.
With more exposure comes more fans and that leads us to those considering buying their first racing simulator. If you’re new to this, there’s a mountain of choices ahead of you, which wheel and pedal set, what games are compatible with that choice, and which simulator can you bolt them to. It’s likely you’ll want to start out with a modest budget and thankfully simulators are now affordable than ever.
The latest from Next Level Racing is the GT Lite Foldable Simulator Cockpit. In design, this sim is similar to the F-GT Lite but is simpler and more focused in its design. The GT-nature of this sim, makes it great for racing games that offer a variety of racing categories, perfect for your first sim. The other great benefit is a reduced price point, making it available to more gamers.
After spending some time in the seat, it’s time to detail my thoughts.
The GT Lite is designed to be easy to set up and easy to pack away. It takes just seconds to unfold and start racing and that speed means you’re likely to use the sim more often, providing a better return on the investment.
The strong tubular frame is connected to adjustment hubs, which connect the backrest to the lower frame while also having locking clips that keep things in place, even during so exciting racing. When you’re done, simply unclick the quick release handle and push the wheel out of the way, allowing for an easy exit from the sim. Simply unclip the locking clips, then fold in the back, fold up the pedal section and you’ve collapsed a full racing set up in seconds, for quick storage.
When it comes to racing, sessions last from minutes to hours and as we come into the warmer months of the year, things can get hot a sweaty when competing for first place. Thanks to a highly-breathable fabric on the backrest, the seat breathes incredibly well, keeping you cool and allowing you to focus on the job of winning those racing.
Another potential audience for this sim is flight enthusiasts. If you’ve fallen in love with titles like Microsoft Flight Simulator, then the GT Lite can be transformed into a flight cockpit with the GT Lite Flight Pack (coming soon). This allows you to mount all the necessary equipment to the GT Lite to transform it into a pilot’s cockpit, ready for your first flight. This includes a keyboard mount, throttle and joystick control surfaces, as well as rudder pedals which mount to the normal pedal section.
The design is one of flexibility and strength and I love the rapidness in which you can enter and exit the sim. The ability to quickly pack it up is also handy, given most sim enthusiasts don’t have the luxury of a dedicated sim space, taking over the lounge room temporarily is possible, but permanently is unlikely to win favour with your loved ones.
Stand out features of this sim.
When it comes to features on this racing sim, Next Level Racing have accommodated the needs of most gamers. Key to regular use is the rapidness in which you can store and then setup the sim. Once you have it in front of the TV, connect a couple of cables for your wheel and pedal set, you can then adjust the positioning of the chair, thanks to Next Level Racing’s unique red hubs that allow for quick adjustments and also keep things in place when your racing hard.
Being comfortable in a sim is imperative and to address this, there are adjustable wheel, shifter and pedal positions, allowing you to angle things exactly to your preference.
Personally I’m a right handed, so the gear shifter on the left is natural (RHD market), but this sim actually supports both left and right positions. This is yet another example of the designers and engineers thinking through the needs of their target demographic.
One thing that frustrates about some of the racing sims I’ve used, is just how hot they get after a few intense laps of competitive racing. Thankfully NLR have created a seat that’s not only comfortable, but is made with highly-breathable fabric, which solves this issue. So much of your body temperature is released through your back, and having that large surface area be able to breath is imperative to a great racing experience. Being cool allows you to focus on setting hot lap times, as being uncomfortable can be one of the biggest distractions, so its great they got this right.
Finally it’s hard to go past the compatibility available with this sim. Almost every available wheel and pedal set will bolt straight up to this, with all major wheel and pedals supported, so you’ll find pre-drilled holes for Logitech, Thrustmaster and Fanatec products.
Not everything’s perfect
When I reviewed the F-GT Lite, I mentioned that I wasn’t a fan of the left strap that is used to secure the base to the backrest. I understand the number of the components of this sim share the same design base with the F-GT Lite, so it wasn’t a surprise to see the strap return. That doesn’t change my opinion of it, I think it’s the weakest part of the design.
Obviously, the strap provides support when the sim is expanded ensuring the backrest can’t overextend and also flexes as the sim folds up. I love how much thought went into the design of the rotating arm that swings the wheel away to allow you out of the sim. I hope to see future revisions of the sim find a more creative 2-piece metal solution in place of the velcro strap.
PRICE & AVAILABILITY
How much and when can you get one ?
After now having spent time with both the F-GT lite and the GT-lite, I’d definitely prefer the GT-lite. While both offer the flexibility to fold up, the GT-lite is simpler in its design and in doing so, has made the product more approachable and more affordable. I certainly like Formula-style racing, I can also do that sitting up, in the GT position, without a series of adjustments to convert into the F1 position.
Once you’ve adjusted the GT-lite to suit your positioning, you’re set for all types of racing. The pre-drilled holes allow for a broad range of wheels and pedals to be mounted to this sim. Personally, I have a Logitech G920, but Logitech, Thrustmaster and Fanatec products are all supported. If you’re into racing with a manual transmission, your shifter can be mounted on either left or right sides.
Overall, what Next Level Racing has created here is a very compelling sim that will appeal to many.