FANATEC CLUBSPORT SHIFTER SQ 1.5

         by Laurence Dusoswa

The fanatec Clubsport shifter SQ v1.5 has been around for a while… since 2013 to be exact. This shifter is still very highly regarded in the sim racing world, even by those who have left the fanatec ecosystem for more exotic brands.
It’s now 2020 and a lot has changed in sim racing, but why do people still consider a 7 year old shifter as one of the best, if not the best shifter on the market? Let’s find out!

Hardware
This is by far the heaviest of the shifters I’ve reviewed since I started this channel, and it also takes up the most space. However, this seems to be with good reason as the build quality of the fanatec shifter far surpasses any of the others I’ve tried.

My Simetik K2 rig has the optional shifter mount which allows me to bottom mount this shifter for a super clean and sturdy look. It really does look tidy on my rig.
There’s not a sim chassis available today whose universal shifter bracket doesn’t cater for the Clubsport shifter. For more specialised rigs like 8020 offerings, there are lots of brackets available for base mounting, rear mounding or side mounting. Base mounting is simple with 4 bolts, and that’s how I installed it on my rig. This is quick and painless and the cable connects on the rear of the housing, which allows you to hide it from most angles with reasonable success.

The shifter comes with little t-slot nuts which makes side or rear mounting relatively simple. Just take the little corner pieces off by unscrewing them, and slot the nuts in. The. Use the bolts provided to mount the shifter to any drilled metal plate or bracket.

This slot system not only allows you to side mount to a bracket, but also allows you to mount a fanatec Clubsport v1.5 handbrake directly to the fanatec shifter, without the need for additional mounting hardware. I’m not going to review the fanatec handbrake in this video, but I will show you briefly how simply it attaches to the shifter and also how sturdy it is. The nice thing about this mechanism is that I don’t need a special mount and even more so, the position of the handbrake is absolutely perfect for drifting and rally.
I will note that 7th gear is quite close to the handbrake handle but realistically, I cannot think of a 7 gear car which relies on a handbrake.

You get 2 gearknobs in the box. A ball shaped gearknob for h-pattern activities and a taller knob for sequential shifting. I’m still undecided about which one I prefer. I definitely prefer the tall one for sequential but for h pattern I’m not sure.

Compatibility
If you have a fanatec wheelbase, the shifter will plug directly into it. However if like me you don’t have a fanatec wheel, you’ll need one of these USB adapters. And if you’re on a console, these USB adapter simply won’t work so You’re limited to a fanatec wheelbase if you want to use this shifter. An adapter costs about€20 but if you order directly from fanatec, beware of shipping costs. For example, If I wanted to buy just an adapter from fanatec who are based in germany, it will cost me €28 to ship it to Ireland.

That’s just silly. If you buy directly from a reseller such as Digital Motorsports however, shipping is usually a lot cheaper so bear that in mind. It’s not always cheaper to buy direct from fanatec.
The cable supplied with the shifter is an ideal length for connecting to your wheelbase but if you are plugging it into a USB adapter you will need an extension cable or a usb hub nearby, unless your PC just happens to be close enough to where your shifter is mounted. I have a usb hub on my keyboard and that works as a short term solution. However, for the longer term I’ll be mounting another hub behind my monitors to ensure that the cables are kept as manageable as possible.

Software
Without any drivers, it’s likely that your shifter will register constant input, so you really need to set it up properly before you can use it.
Luckily, software setup is easy. Just download the latest drivers from the fanatec website, then calibrate your gears using the supplied user interface and you’re good to go. One thing worth noting is that if you also hook up a fanatec handbrake using another USB adapter, the only way I could get them to play nicely together was by installing the handbrake first, and only then setting up the shifter. This was pretty odd but it worked out in the end.

H-pattern Shifting with this shifter is about as good as it gets with the current generation of sim racing hardware. The heavy construction means that the gear shifter needs some persuasion to go into gear, which is similar to a real world h shifter. There’s a little slot at the side which takes an Allen key and this allows you to adjust the resistance on the throw of the gear lever. I highly recommend adjusting this and making the gear throw heavier than default because it really does set it apart from all of the competition. I haven’t had a single misshift after weeks of testing, and always feel confident about the next gear even though I’m not really thinking about where I’m pushing the gear lever. The shift is so solid and sturdy that you can see my rig’s gearbox mount moving a bit under gear change. This movement isn’t noticeable at all with weaker gearboxes.

Sequential Switching from h pattern to sequential is an absolute breeze. You can do it on the fly without any calibration, provided you have mapped the controls in your sim title of choice. The weight of this gearbox gives a nice rewarding gear change when driving in sequential mode. If you hop into any car which has proper in car sequential gear change animations, especially in VR, then you’re on for a treat. The changes themselves give a mechanical and clunky feedback which is somewhat similar to a gear grabbing hold. This clunk could be even better, but you will always know if you completed a gear change with this setup. The heavy gear lever makes is next to impossible to do a double shift by accident and gives a good sense of control.

Price
This is the elephant in the room. On paper it seems like a high number: €259. That’s because it is one of the more expensive gear shifters on the market. Add €20 to that if you need a USB adapter too, and it becomes a fairly pricey bit of kit at €279. However, although price doesn’t always reflect how good or bad a product is, the sq 1.5 is an amazing piece of hardware which I feel is very worth the premium you need to pay to have the privilege of owning one. If you can afford it, and if you want one of the best gear shifting experiences available to the consumer market, then the club sport sq v1.5 is for you. I’ve put my affiliate link in the description below. If you use this link you are still buying directly from fanatec but I get a small commission from them for making the sale. That helps me to pay a towards a few bills around here, for example, this shifter which I paid for myself.

Final thought.
This is the best h pattern shifter you can currently buy for the regular consumer market. It’s not necessarily the best value but if you have the money, you won’t regret this purchase. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect though. This is a 7 year old design which admittedly has done extremely well to stay on its throne since it’s launch in 2013. But I feel that we face a big problem in the h-pattern market. The thing is that you can live without a h pattern shifter. You can even live without a sequential shifter because most steering wheel rims have paddle shifters. That means that gear shifters have been largely ignored or accepted to be ‘good enough’ or ‘fit for purpose’. If we look at the advances in pedal and wheelbase technology over the past 7 years, I cannot help but think that shifters have been left behind, and may never catch up.

We lack feeling through our clutch and gear shifters meaning that mis-shifts, when they happen, serve as a somber reminder that you’re just sitting in a simulator in your house. It’s the exact opposite feeling that you get when you are driving a h-pattern car in anger with perfect heel-toe precision around a windy section of an iconic race track. You don’t get a physical jolt of fear transferred from your clutch to your arm, rattling your bones to the point where you mentally apologise to the car. You get feedback that’s even more empty than pressing a button to engage an electronic handbrake in a modern family car. This is less of an issue with the sequential shifting mode, but it‘s not fanatec’s fault, and it’s a complex bit of feedback that we lack while in h pattern, but it’s the one thing that is fundamentally missing from my sim experience, apart from force feedback brakes.
Mis-shifts aside, in real life there is a beautiful dance that happens in your gearbox that’s incredibly rewarding when you engage a higher or lower gear and feel your differential being relayed the messages you’re trying to send it. It’s incredibly rewarding, even if you’re driving a slow car. In a simulator, you just have to trust that it all happens, and I get quite conscious of the lack of a mechanical link to anything other than a circuit board, and that’s just ‘good enough’ for us, because less and less race cars actually use h pattern these days, and let’s face it, it’s probably not worth the research and development to push shifters that extra mile.

I’m extremely positive about this shifter, I’m just slightly disappointed that the goalposts for steering wheels and pedals keep shifting but the best shifter on the market is 7 years old. Sure they’ve released some fancy coloured versions but it’s the same old shifter. I could be overthinking it and I’m curious to hear your feedback in the comments below. I highly recommend this shifter and I’m strongly considering giving it a permanent place on my rig.

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Shifters & Handbrakes

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