It’s time for an intervention. I read with interest many forum posts on pedals and how different brands, constructions, and components can yield a big gain in performance on track. Every such proclamation made me quite skeptical. My belief has always been that it’s the poor writer who blames his pen, and if ‘aliens’ were using my low-end equipment, they could adapt quickly and easily beat my times within a couple of laps and likely also match their best times achieved on high-end equipment.
My nine year old pedal set was starting to go sour with worn out potentiometers in the summer time, so I was forced to use a much maligned two-pedal set that came with my wheel while I struggled with repair problems on the old set. I was happy to find that my hypothesis about equipment being a non-factor in speed was proven correct when my progression to improved times and consistency carried right on from where it had left-off in the switch to the ‘inferior’ pedals.
Ultimately, I realized I would have to commit to a new set of quality pedals, and I was looking for a quality system that would last for a while. So I ordered the new three-pedal set which included a load cell brake. The biggest difference is that load cell brakes rely on pressure rather than displacement of the pedal, so it more closely mimics the feel of a real-life brake pedal. My expectation was that this switch would again allow me to continue my steady progression in improvement in speed and consistency once my brain adapted to the new input techniques.
I set up a test where I could compare my lap times using both pedal types at Summit Point using the SpecRacer Ford, as it is a car which requires good pedal control. I was astounded to find that, with my new pedals, I not only achieved my pace almost immediately, but was able to set a new personal best within 30 laps. Moreover, the higher level of control was clear and resulted in many more clean laps compared to the laps with potentiometer brakes.
I followed up with a similar test in the Star Mazda and had the same results, setting my best times with the new load cell set, although this time I was not able to beat my old personal best time. I also had a brief chance to try out a cockpit with another set of pedals with a load cell brake, and I was still able to beat my potentiometer test times within a dozen laps, although the oversteering setup that was provided made the consistency suffer quite a bit.
Finally, I extracted some data from sessions with both pedal types, and the results clearly show how the load cell brake promotes a more consistent braking technique, while the pot system was much more prone to erratic inputs. Both tests resulted in very similar lap times, but the confidence inspired with the load cell brake simply cannot be overstated. It simply seems like a much more natural way to control the braking of the sim, compared to the displacement style pot system.
My short time with the load cell brake has proven to me the error in thinking that hardware can play very little role in consistency and performance. I am now certain that this new system will allow me to have so much more confidence in braking control that I expect I will likely improve lap times at a faster pace. I expect that my safety rating will also benefit, particularly after I grow accustomed to the new pedals. I know many others have struggled with adapting to load cell brakes, but I think once you can train your brain cells you will not regret it.
Therefore I retract any skepticism I may have exhibited in the past about the benefits of improved hardware, and I highly recommend you upgrade to a pedal setup with a load cell brake. If it intensifies your iRacing addiction, you can still blame Dave. But Dave’s not here.