Sim racing is a slice of the gaming industry that is filled with wonderful and potentially incredibly high-end accessories. Ranging from simple racing wheels that connect to your console, to direct-drive wheelbases with interchangeable rims, hydraulic clutch pedals, and cockpit seats that shake you around during the race. The one thing that all these devices have in common is that they enhance the immersion and overall enjoyment of the racing experience. While there are several prominent racing cockpit solutions on the market, they are typically known for their high price point, elaborate setup requirements, and targeted at the extreme racing enthusiast.
The Spectre Carbon 2.0 was designed, fittingly in a garage, by brothers Dave Sedacca and Tommy Donohue, in an effort to provide a sturdy, adjustable, yet affordable alternative to existing racing cockpits. After creating a prototype and first version in 2020, the team at Spectre Form now offers the Spectre Carbon 2.0 to sim racers, and I've been using it to participate in a rather intense co-op career in the recently released F1 2021. Equipped with a solid entry-level racing wheel and pedals, as well as some just-above-mediocre driving skills, I got to work on assembling the racing cockpit and putting it to the test. Here's how that went.
Customizable yet sturdy
At first glance, the Spectre Carbon 2.0 looks like something that one might build themselves as a DIY project, and while that's certainly the case, doing so would require quite a few carpentry and design skills that not everyone possesses. Upon closer inspection, you'll notice a significant amount of thought and engineering expertise that went into the Spectre's design. Most obvious is the large amount of pre-drilled holes to not only support a wide variety of racing accessories and gear, but also to allow the user to adjust the cockpit to their exact requirements. I'm a tall man at 6'4", and I was glad to see that the cockpit could easily be adjusted to accommodate my long legs. In fact, after initially bolting things together in the longest configuration, I went back to make small adjustments to the pedals' angle to make my driving experience more comfortable.
Assembly of the Spectre Carbon 2.0 is quite straight-forward, with clear instructions, and a rather ingenious method of connecting pieces together with just a simple wrench. The way the bolts hook into their counterparts and are secured makes for very easy adjustments. Each of the three main parts of the cockpit, the seat section, wheel section, and foot section can be connected together in any number of configurations. The boards are made out of something called premium Valchromat, an environmentally friendly non-toxic substance made from recycled pine wood and mill waste. It's actually quite pleasing to the eye, with a semi-rough texture that gives it that carbon-like appearance of its name. Using this material also means that if your devices don't fit the pre-drilled holes, it's easy to make your own.
It took me less than half an hour to assemble the Spectre Carbon 2.0, and due to its modular form, it's easy to move it around the house or even partially disassemble it if required. While Spectre Form points out that it's possible to store the cockpit upright when not in use, I found that less than ideal, especially since all your accessories will be hard-mounted to it, and the unique connection mechanism seems to be most secure when in its normal intended position. Having said that, if I ever find myself no longer interested in sim racing, breaking the Spectre Carbon 2.0 down into its components and putting it into storage would be a piece of cake.
Shifting into high gear
Once I assembled the Spectre Carbon 2.0, figured out the best placement for my monitor, and mounted my racing wheel and pedals, it was time to hit the track. My Fanatec wheel puts out a decent amount of force feedback, though nowhere near as much as a direct drive wheelbase would, but the Spectre Carbon 2.0 barely ever moved or shifted at all. During races, I can yank on my wheel quite a bit without ever fearing it coming loose or somehow interfering with my driving. The part of the cockpit to which my pedals are mounted, is securely fastened to the wheel section, which means that no matter how hard I press on the accelerator or slam on the brakes, nothing is moving that shouldn't be. Whether this security has had a notable effect on my driving skills can't be easily measured, but I can say that I used to spend a lot of brain power thinking about how I was sitting rather than how I was driving. Now I feel like most of my attention can be directed on track, where it belongs.
Throughout my entire time with the Spectre Carbon 2.0, nothing ever shook, shifted, or moved unless I wanted it to. It's in stark contrast with other lower-priced racing cockpits I've used in the past, which often buckle, shake, and shimmy at the worst possible times. It's a testament to the design of the Spectre Carbon 2.0 that it's so stable while still being relatively lightweight. For my specific situation, I left the seat section disconnected from the wheel and pedal sections during entry and exit of the cockpit. So while the Spectre Carbon 2.0 disassembles easily enough, it's also quick to disconnect and reconnect a piece. This allowed me to easily get in the seat and keep things secure enough to really put the pedal to the metal.
No one said racing was easy, or comfortable
Speaking of exiting or entering the Spectre Carbon 2.0 racing cockpit, it's not the easiest task in the world. The cockpit very much emulates the seating position of a race car, rather than your everyday driver. As such, your butt is extremely close to the ground and your legs are quite far extended forward to the pedals. While this position is actually great for the racing experience, it's not the most comfortable position in the world. The cockpit's seat is upholstered with a small block of memory foam which isn't terrible, but after a couple of hours of racing, you'll definitely feel it. The seat pan is also not very deep, which means that those of us with larger rear ends will find it less comfortable than others. To be honest, it actually adds a bit to the realism and immersion, as I imagine most racecar driver's posterior gets a bit sore after many laps on track. Overall, the seat could use some improvements in version 3.0 of the Spectre Carbon.
There are a few small aspects of the Spectre Carbon 2.0 that were a little disappointing, including the admittedly vain fact that the first time I left a cup on one of the side tables, it immediately left a stain ring behind. In fact, I found the material to be rather easy to scratch or discolor for some reason. None of this affects the overall performance of the racing cockpit, but it is a bit of a letdown. The side tables themselves can be very useful to support a gearbox or mouse and keyboard, but I found them to not be very securely attached to the main base of the cockpit. I think this is a case where the unique connection mechanism falls short, as a small bit of upward force can easily loosen the grip that the bolt has on the side table. Again, this isn't likely to impact your racing experience, but it also tells me that it's best to put this cockpit together, place it in the desired position, and then not move it unless you really have to.
Finally, I struggled a fair bit with proper monitor placement. The Spectre Carbon 2.0 is actually fairly long, especially at its most extended configuration, which leaves your monitor or TV at quite a distance from your eyes. This may not be an issue if you're playing on a console attached to a 65" TV, but in my case, I was using a 34" ultrawide gaming monitor, which I wanted to be just behind the wheel. The Spectre Carbon 2.0 doesn't provide a solution to that, so I had to come up with another hacky way of mounting the monitor. The end result is excellent, and I couldn't be happier with my in-race experience, but it is something worth considering when you're planning out where and how to use the cockpit.
So, let's get to the answer of the question I posed at the beginning of this review: has the Spectre Carbon 2.0 made me a better sim racer? The answer is "absolutely maybe." Since I started using the racing cockpit, I have stopped having to swear at foot pedals sliding across the floor, have started racing in full manual transmission mode instead of automatic, and I am slowly weaning myself off the racing line and traction control assists. Being able to sit securely in the Spectre Carbon 2.0, with all my peripherals tightly fastened and in the exact position I want them in, has no doubt made the sim racing experience a better one. The rest is really up to the driver's skill level, but I have and will continue to enjoy the Spectre Carbon 2.0 racing cockpit for many Formula 1 seasons to come.
This review is based off a product sample provided by Spectre Form. The Spectre Carbon 2.0 is available now for an MSRP of $250.00 USD
Spectre Carbon 2.0 racing cockpit
- Extremely customizable
- Innovative and easy assembly
- Rock-steady even under strain
- Enhances the racing experience immensely
- Not comfortable for long racing sessions
- Getting in and out can be challenging
- Proper monitor position requires some creative thinking
Jan Ole Peek posted a new article, Spectre Carbon 2.0 review: A solid custom racing cockpit
At that price point I'm really interested in this racing seat! With my own skills and tools, I doubt I could build something similar at that price point - never mind the time investment.
For VR, do you think there would be any issues with cable placement or things knocking into your head?
I didn’t try it with my VR headset but I can’t see how the cables would be an issue at all. Probably best to just sling it over your shoulder and then around the side. Works great I’m sure!