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DIY sequential gear shifter for sim racing

Arduino TeamSeptember 26th, 2023

A sequential transmission is one that only allows you to move up or down by a single gear at a time. They’ve always been the norm for motorcycles, because they’re lightweight and compact. And Formula 1 cars have sequential transmissions for the same reasons. But unlike motorcycles, which require manual shifting, Formula 1 cars have lightning-fast electronic systems. To recreate that for racing sims, Carlos Almeida designed this sequential gear shift controller.

Real Formula 1 cars have paddle shifters, so that drivers can shift while keeping their hands on their steering wheels. This is a little bit different and looks more like a conventional shifter at first glance. It is a large lever that the user can push forward to move up a gear, or pull back to move down a gear. A seven-segment display shows the current gear number.

Most of the mechanical components are 3D-printable and an Arduino MKR1000 WiFi board is the primary component. Moving the shift lever pushes a switch, which the Arduino registers. Almeida developed the sketch using PlatformIO. It sets the Arduino up as a standard USB HID that will work with any racing sim or game, because it sends key presses like any keyboard or gamepad. It doesn’t receive feedback from the PC, so it has to keep track of the current gear and let the user set the number of gears available using small buttons below the readout display.

If you want a physical sequential shifter for racing sims, this will make a great weekend project.