By John Munro and Thomas Harrison-Lord
Sabelt has been around for more than 50 years, perhaps best known in our circles for creating seat and safety belts used in motorsport and performance sports cars.
Its straps are used by seven current Formula 1 teams, Ferrari Competizioni GT and Alpine road-going coupes. The McLaren Senna GTR hypercar uses Sabelt’s devices from new, from the factory, one of numerous original equipment use cases.
From there, the company took perhaps the unorthodox diversification by taking the (one small) step into space travel. The Cygnus Orbital-ATK spacecraft uses Sabelt’s restraints to keep precious cargo in place.
Which poses a pivotal question. Having dominated the seatbelt and aerospace industries, where was the Italian company going to head next?
The answer: sim racing.
The Sabelt S Series is the genesis – a range of four cockpits designed for racing at home, virtually, ranging from €699 to a range-topping €1,497. First customer deliveries land on 15th October, and as a testament to the volume of work conducted behind the scenes, there’s a deluge of additional device mounts, monitor stands, cable clips, PC, pedal and wheel mounts plus steering wheels to match.
From a cold start, the breadth of options is impressive. Although, clearly, this hasn’t been the work of a moment.
“We’ve worked on these products now for nearly two years,” charismatically eulogises Achille Balestrini, CEO of Sabelt Sim Racing.
“For Sabelt, it’s a big opportunity to enter the sim racing market. We’re trying to move our values from motorsport to digital motorsport.
“That means a high attention to the quality of the products with a significant effort to develop them and everything is 100 per cent made in Italy.”
That aforementioned expansive accessory range is only set to grow, too.
“Right now, we’re focused on the rig as it’s the base of our lineup, but of course, we are planning to release many other products like dashboards, wheel rims, wheel bases, paddles and many other accessories to create a complete Sablet Sim Racing ecosystem,” explains Balestrini.
While the S Series is available to order, the range actually has three tiers which will expand over time, and each aligns with the Torinese outfit’s real-world activities: S Series for GT, P Series for Formula 1 and X Series for the road.
Social media teasers hint at a stock car, or drift-style, steering wheel, for example, as part of the X Series. All part of a larger plan, that could even involve licenced sim equipment thanks to long-established relationships.
“We have a lot of plans, of course, because we are full of ideas about sim racing products, this is just, from our point of view, the start,” teases a rightly proud Balestrini.
“[For automotive partners] we have a plan. We are already talking with some of them. It’s a big opportunity for as many real automotive brands that are Sabelt customers are also interested in sim racing.”
It all sounds rather promising, and our hands-on verdict shall be saved for a video later this week, but we wanted to know why now, 2023, was the right time for Sabelt to enter the already extremely competitive scene, potentially risking its lauded reputation.
“We had to wait for the right moment [to enter sim racing],” highlights Massimiliano Marsiaj, Vice President of Sabelt.
“It has obviously been a growing business area and we analysed it as an opportunity. But, we had to find the right partners.
“Achille came up with the idea of developing a specific range of products dedicated to sim racing. So we thought it was the right time to start with this project.
“We can bring a lot of know-how to the market about seat comfort, the ergonomics and the quality of the products. Yet here, this also involves a lot of electronics with different feelings. So we are here to learn, yet bringing our experience from real motorsport.”
Make no mistake, the commitment is significant and we think that such a storied brand seeing sim racing as a growth market is positive news for the scene on a macro level. Will the sim racing community be as welcoming to Sabelt, however, in return?
The proof is in the products, and we expect to find out over the coming months…