After the Covid-19 pandemic swung a wrecking ball into last year’s motor racing season, championships turned to virtual racing to fill empty calendars.
But in their pursuit of a more authentic simracing experience, many gamers discovered that trading gamepads for dedicated simracing hardware can bring practical difficulties. Wheels and pedals take up a lot of space, and integrating them with systems which might be used for other games and tasks isn’t easy.
Wheels typically have to be mounted to something sturdy, like a desk, where they compete for space with keyboards and other peripherals. While entry-level wheels require little effort to turn, more robust models need to be fixed firmly in place. Removing and reattaching them between sessions quickly becomes hassle.
Pedal clusters present further challenges. Slam the brake too hard and the unit slips away under your feet while your car heads for the barrier. Alternatively, the unit stays where it is and you roll away from the controls, wishing your desk chair didn’t have wheels.
For those with plenty of space and no shortage of cash, a dedicated simracing rig is the way to go. Mount your wheels, pedals and monitor on and away you go. But these solid structures can carry heavy price tags and occupy a lot of space.
This has prompted racing cockpit manufacturers to offer an intermediate solution: lower-cost, foldable simracing frames which can accommodate standard motorsport hardware and be folded away for storage between uses.
The example reviewed here, Next Level’s GT Lite, is competitively pitched below the £200 mark, comparable to the cost of a basic wheel and pedals set-up. For this the manufacturer promises “the perfect foldable GT position cockpit for users that have limited space but still demand a realistic and rigid racing solution”.
As the name suggests, the arrangement is designed to mimic a GT car seating position rather than a single-seater. The height of the front legs is adjustable and so is tilt angle of the steering wheel. An extra £50 gets you the F-GT Lite model which allows for greater adjustability of the seat and pedal positions to approximate a single-seater set-up.
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The GT Lite arrives with a clear set of assembly instructions and the manufacturer’s website has video guides to take you through the installation. Basic tools are provided in the kit, though I found using my own hex keys and screwdriver made the process a lot swifter.
If you’ve successfully tackled flat-pack furniture in the past then set-up shouldn’t cause you too many problems and you won’t need a second pair of hands to put it together. Some of the tubing is fitted with plastic caps for protection during travel which proved tricky to detach by hand. A few of the bolts stubbornly refused to slide home neatly, but with a little patient work the whole job took little more than a couple of hours.
Having built the rig you must then attach your choice of steering wheel and pedals (which are not included). Next Level say the GT Lite it is compatible with all major brands of wheel, including those which clamp to bases.
The wheel base is pre-drilled with holes allowing you to screw Logitech, Thrustmaster and Fanatec hardware into place – we tested an example of the latter. Again, consult their instruction videos for details on how to fit your preferred wheel. Once secured in place, the wheel can be swung aside to allow easy access to the seat.
The pedals are mounted to a hinged base which attaches to the front of the seat. The base slides backwards and forwards to suit your leg length, and has four screws which allow you to fix them to the desired position.
As the set-up is designed to be folded away when needed, sacrifices have inevitably been made to adjustability. In particular, you can’t change the reach of the steering wheel, so if your body shape is particularly large or small consider the F-GT Lite instead. The wheel mount can be tilted as needed.
My first concern about sampling a foldable racing seat was that it might fold up when I didn’t want it to – i.e. underneath me, mid-race. But once I had the GT Lite configured to my liking I had no concerns at all about its sturdiness. Its parts are reassuringly solid, fit together well, and you can lock the various adjustable sections into place firmly when it’s race time.
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The seat is comfortable, with two bolstered strips either side of a large breathable section which makes it a pleasant environment for long periods of F1 2020 or WRC 9. The seat back had slightly more flex in it than I would like. A thick Velcro strap on one side helps keep it in place – a second one on the opposite side would be a worthwhile addition. Again, the F-GT Lite has a different style of lockable hinge.
A separate mounting plate is included for a manual gear stick, though as I didn’t require this it isn’t pictured here.
Having logged hours of virtual racing at the wheel of the GT Lite (every minute of which I assured my family was for vital, work-related reasons) I never once encountered a problem with it which interrupted a race. At first I found that if I braked harder than needed it was possible to lift the front of the seat off the floor, but I soon kicked the habit.
The set-up is particularly effective if your system is based at a desk. Move your regular chair out of position, slide the front of the GT Lite under your desk and you can use it alongside your monitor and keyboard as normal.
This threatens to put a serious dent in my productivity. Particularly as the GT Lite’s party trick means it can be folded up for storage between sessions. It can collapse to occupy a minimum space of 104 x 93 x 30 cm – potentially small enough to squeeze under a bed.
However note that your choice of wheel and pedals may have a bearing on this, and you may have to loosen much of the structure to fold it down this far. That said, folding it down is a quick job and it doesn’t take long to set back up again either.
The GT Lite is a well thought-out piece of kit which offers a practical solution for simracers looking to incorporate a steering wheel and pedals into their systems, particularly those who haven’t got the space or don’t want the inconvenience of a full rig.
How we tested the Next Level GT Lite
The Next Level GT Lite was tested using the following hardware and software:
- BenQ EW3270-T monitor
- Fanatec Elite F1 Set steering wheel and pedals (Buy from Amazon)
- NVidia Geforce RTX 2080 Ti graphics card
- F1 2020 by Codemasters
- Dirt 5 by Codemasters
- WRC 9 by Nacon
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