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Fanatec: Interview with CEO Thomas Jackermeier

Discussion in 'Sim Racing Hardware' started by Brian Clancy, Sep 30, 2010.

  1. Here is the interview with Thomas Jackermeier, CEO of Fanatec.

    First, Thanks for taking part in the interview Thomas. Could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to start making Sim Racing hardware?
    I am 40 years old and I am a fan of Simracing since the Formula One Grand Prix came out in 1992. At that time there was only the Thrustmaster T1 available and that was my first wheel of course. After I finished my masters degree in economics I decided to jump into that market as there was still plenty of opportunity there. I founded Endor (mother company of the brand “Fanatec”) 11 years ago and we always focused on making racing wheels. We made the official Sony Playstation 2 wheels and the official wheel for the old Xbox and sold several hundred thousand wheels before Logitech even entered the market of racing wheels. All that happened mostly in Europe and mostly on consoles so that we are quite new for a lot of people out there.

    You have created a really top quality set of wheels and pedals. The one thing that, to many of us sim racers, is the holy grail of wheels would be a F1 replica wheel. Whilst there are such wheels available they are mostly high end custom built articles reserved for those with very deep pockets. Is there any chance of you creating a F1 style wheel that would place in the same price range as your current wheels?
    Our current wheels are already calculated very aggressive so by adding a lot of features like a big LED screen it would be hard to keep the current price level but it is definitely something we are looking at. I see that there is a big price gap between some cheap crappy F1 wheels and something solid so this is a chance. I would love to make 10 projects at the same time but it has proven to be faster to make them one by one so please be patient ;)

    How come that Fanatec is one of the companies that manages to compete against the big ones by creating hardware that is compatible with all platforms?
    Our small size can actually be an advantage. We are small enough to make “freaky” products and big enough to produce in China at competitive prices. I guess the other players simply did not bother to make this huge effort to develop complex Xbox FF electronics and sell only 10.000 units afterwards. I love Forza and this is the main reason why we made it. I have the luxury to create products for the taste of the users and not only to strict commercial profit rules.
    Some people think that you are only paying for the Porsche logo but that is not the case at all. In fact we can only sell our products at those competitive prices because we sell directly. The manufacturing costs of our wheels are very high because we only use the best materials (Alcantara leather from Italy, Gates belts from the UK, etc.)and an expensive construction as well to create the best sensations. And please note that it was Porsche who helped us to “convince” Microsoft to allow a 3rd party high-end racing wheel.

    How is the Club Sport Shifter & Hand-brake coming along?
    Slowly but we are moving forward. Not sure if we can keep our target to get prototypes before the end of the year but we try hard.

    With the addition of your new wheels onto the market, can you reveal to us any plans of future designs or products?
    We basically plan to make a product in every category of Simracing products. So you can expect anything from a shifter to a motion cockpit. Check out my blog at 911wheel.com as I will announce new products there.

    How much different is xbox input compared to direct input of pc in creating a believable ffb and does it require different hardware within the wheel to cope will the different types of input software and would you rather see a day in which all platforms use the same software interface
    The technology of the Xbox is completely different from the PC technology and we almost had to make a complete new development to get from the 911 Turbo to the 911 Turbo S wheel. There is no way that you could achieve that with a simple adapter and make current wheels compatible. On the 360 the effects are basically generated in the wheel and the game sends the info which of the stored FF effects have to be activated, while on PC you basically just receive left / right signals as all FF is generated in the game.
    Besides that, all Xbox controllers need to support audio and also feature a special security chip which makes sure that you can only connect officially licensed controllers to the console. Of course this makes sure that MS gets the license fee but it also brings the enormous advantage for the user that all controllers are tested with the games and you get true plug and play as the standards are clearly defined.

    Where exactly in the market place, do you see Fanatec in ten years time?

    Don’t want to sound arrogant but our target is nothing less than the market leader in all kind of Simracing equipment. I am talking about Simracing, we leave the cheap plastic toys to others ;)

    Are you, yourself, an avid sim racer and do you race in any league's or events online?
    I wish I had the time to do more racing but the reality is that I got more practice before I started this business. I just play for fun and love all kind of racing from Flatout to iRacing. And of course I do a lot of testing but is no fun as you play for 10 seconds, change something, boot the PC, play again for 10 seconds etc etc.
    But I am happy to know that I can still drive quite fast. EA made a kart racing event with the 30 best NFS players of the world at the Gamescom. Guess who made the pole position. We just screwed up the race as our team changed the drivers too often. J

    Why do you think that devs seem to value overall grip as the main ffb over the feeling of the ffb showing the steering wheel being connected just to the front wheels as in a car in real life, and how can you as a manufacturer create a better ffb wheel if the devs fail to make use of the ffb to its maximum currently, without adding in extra effects not created by the game ,or do you believe that an ffb wheel should not be able to create any extra effects that has not been created by the game physics.
    That is a pretty complex question. I think that the biggest disadvantage of Simracing is the lack of G-force sensations. Some developers probably try to compensate that by adding force effects to the wheel which do not occur in real life but deliver the sensations you need to feel the car.
    We can do very little if the game devs are not implementing FF properly. We can fake something like we do with our artificial ABS vibration depending on how strong you press the brake pedal.

    Is there anything you, yourself, would like to say to Racedepartments members?
    I, myself, would like to thank you for this opportunity and would like to thank all Racedepartment members who supported us so far. Racedepartment and the whole Simracing community plays an important role in our development process as we get a lot of input how to design our products. It is a great new way of creating products and I love the direct feedback I get and the good relationship I have to many of you. Let’s all work together to make our passion more exciting.

    I would like to thank Thomas for taking the time to do this interview and for his generous gift of the GT3RS v2 wheel and Clubsport peddles I will be reviewing and then giving away in a competition soon

  2. I would just like to thank Thomas for his time and generosity again:D
  3. yes thx Thomas, fanatec and Brian for that nice interview!! ;)
  4. Thanks Brian and thanks Fanatec!
  5. Ramon van Rijn

    Ramon van Rijn
    Premium Member

    Top Job Brian! and thanks Thomas for scheduling some time for this interview and his nice surprise :)
  6. Bram

    Roaring Pipes Maniacs | #27 Staff Premium Member


    Very nice!
  7. Thanks Brian and Thomas. I've been looking forward to this interview.

    Can't wait to see Fanatec's first F1 style wheel!
  8. I'm a happy customer of Fanatec, and look forward to seeing future products from them. Their pre and after sales support has been some of the best I've experienced from a computer hardware company.
  9. Dave Stephenson

    Dave Stephenson
    Technical Administrator Staff

    It's great when people take time out for the community, thanks Thomas, and thanks Brian for making it happen.
  10. Great interview Brian and thanks Thomas, my PWTS is such a good bit of kit. A great insight into racing wheels.
  11. Thanks to Thomas for the interview! Great job Brian! :)
  12. Cheap Plastic toys --> my Turbo S is nearly 90% out of cheap Plastic :frown:
  13. The original steering wheel of a real Porsche is also made of "plastic". It does not mean that this is my understanding of cheap ;)

    Thanks for all the nice comments. it was a pleasure.
  14. Great interview thanks Brian and Thomas. Just got me some Clubsport pedals and so far they are great. :)
  15. Thanks to Thomas and to Brian who asked 1 of my questions
    The answer on xinput is quite interesting.
  16. Kris Vickers

    Kris Vickers
    Hardware Staff

    Excellent interview, really good.

    Great questions all the guys that suggested them.

    Really nice to see an MD of a strong company taking the time to answer such questions and give real, thought about answers :cool:

    My question was up there and answered fully, so i`m a happy bunny :)