Crimson Simulation Review: Sim Racing in Connecticut

Joe and I were fortunate enough to make the drive up to Norwalk, CT yesterday to visit Crimson Simulation sim racing center. Located in an unassuming office building that belies what's inside, Crimson Simulation is a funky, high-energy facility with some serious one-of-a-kind equipment. 

We were the first appointment of the day, 3PM on a Thursday, which was the earliest owner Naid Naydenov (for whom Crimson Sim is a passion project, not his 9-5) could meet us. Naid was just the friendliest guy on top of being extremely knowledgeable about his product and the sport. He and Joe had some racing friends in common, and Naid - who does track & autocross -  has driven Joe's old STR Miata at it's new home in MA!

Along with the five triple-screen sim racing rigs, Crimson Sim's pièce de résistance is the professional hydraulic motion simulator. When we first arrived, we did as suggested and acclimated ourselves to the triple screen experience on the standard set-up. Joe had built his own cockpit a few years ago, and both he and I had played iRacing before on his single screen rig. But, as Naid carefully warned, the triple screen experience can often leave some people feeling a bit woozy. 

This was our first time using 144 hz triple screens and Joe loved it. The load cell pedals were much heavier and more realistic feeling than on our own set-up and Joe preferred the feel of the them over a standard potentiometer pedal. Naid told us that drivers can build muscle memory from the realistic forces of his pedals and steering. He also liked the Fanatec shifter, which had a bit more resistance than his own Thrustmaster shifter. He felt that the force feedback from the wheel was more or less on par with the Thrustmaster T500RS wheel he had had at home, but that the wheel itself was much nicer and added to the immersion of the experience. 

The main benefit of the triple screens, in Joe's opinion, is being able to correctly set your field of view, which provides a much more realistic sense of speed. The FOV is so much greater that it really feels like you're sitting in the driver seat of the car as opposed to a single screen cockpit where it feels like you're wearing blinders. Some tracks don't have as much of a need for the periphery, but for many tracks the expanded view is beneficial. 

Unfortunately for me, after a handful of laps, I felt a sudden wave of nausea and had to step away from the screens for half an hour. I was surprised how intensely the motion sickness kicked in! Perhaps next time I should start with a single screen and work up to the triple screens. I couldn't leave without trying the motion rig, so after I cooled down, I did try it for a couple of laps.

From watching videos of people in motion simulators online, Joe says it seemed like it would be an exaggerated experience. But, in practice, the feeling was very real. It felt like you were in a car: the paddle shifts were as violent as expected and going over bumps and curves gave you real feedback. This was the first time either of us had used a direct drive wheel. The first thing you notice right away is how stiff it can be. The force feedback is clear and immediate. The motion simulator makes it easier to drive. So easy, in fact, that Joe's first motion lap was over a second faster than his previous lap in the stationary cockpit. 

Cars & tracks we drove:

  • New ND Miata
  • Formula Renault
  • Ford Mustang
  • Corvette Daytona Prototype
  • Audi R8 V10 GT3
  • Mercedes AMG car
  • Laguna Seca
  • Mid-Ohio
  • VIR
  • Nordschleife - Nürburgring

 As far as specs (as best as I can remember), the static simulators all feature:

  • Fanatec ClubSport V2 Wheelbase
  • Leather-wrapped Porsche 918 RSR rim
  • Fanatec ClubSport Six Speed Shifter
  • High-end load cell pedals
  • 144hz G-Sync triple screens
  • Simetik cockpits
  • Surround Sound Speakers or Headphones
  • Sparco seats

The motion simulator features:

  • Servo-based Direct Drive system from Leo Bodner/SimSteering 
  • Real Momo Wheel
  • Shift LIghts
  • 144hz G-Sync triple screens
  • Fanatec ClubSport Six Speed Shifter
  • High-end Load Cell Pedals (different from standard rig)
  • Full-motion hydraulic cockpit
  • Bride seat

To my delight, special guest Leo the chocolate Lab kept me company while I grounded myself from the dizziness. 

Naid was very knowledgeable and went over some of the in-depth data with Joe. Crimson Simulation is an obvious passion for him and he builds some gorgeous machines. He is in the process of putting together a new motion simulator with hydraulic brakes. He was kind enough to show us his staging room and let me take photos of the new blue project:

Crimson Simulation was a great experience (aside from motion sickness!). It's an upscale environment, very new and clean, and well-stocked with different wheels. There are also backup wheels just-in-case and, eventually, he would like to upgrade all of the set-ups to direct drive wheels. 

All the simulators are available to be brought to events or purchased individually. Naid also builds custom rigs, including the one Joe and I saw at the Lamborghini dealership in New Jersey.