Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake Sparco Mod | Sim Racing Shifter and Handbrake
The Thrustmaster TSS Handbrake can be used in three different configurations. It’s main use case for me is as a vertically mounted handbrake like you would find in rally car, but it can also be set-up as a traditional road car handbrake or, interestingly a sequential-shifter.
Switching between the vertical and horizontal handbrake modes will take a couple of minutes, but swapping between the rally style handbrake and sequential mode is very straightforward. And, that’s something that I think will appeal to a lot of users. Sure having a handbrake for when you’re rallying is cool and all, but having a unit that you can practically use as a sequential shifter when you’re in other sims is a pretty big selling point for me. But, more on all of that later.
Now, this is the really interesting bit. I think it would be fair to describe the majority of Thrustmaster’s products as ‘mass-market’. They’re designed to be easily and cost-effectively mass-produced, and as such they use a lot of plastic mouldings. The TSS Handbrake on the other hand is, save for a couple of nylon bushings, an all metal affair. Compared to the TH8A shifter for example, the Handbrake really does mean business. The unit looks good and feels good in the hand. There’s no discernible play or wobble in the parts and overall this thing gives off an impressively ‘professional’ vibe.
The handbrake is, as you would expect, fully proportional and there was no hint of a deadzone on the version that was provided to me. So, once you have it installed, it’s simply a case of asigning the handbrake controller axis in your sim of choice and you’ll be able to apply as much or as little handbrake as you like. The lever has what I would describe as moderate resistance. It doesn’t feel as heavy as in most road cars, but equally there’s enough resistance to provide useful feedback. In practice this means that reliable and accurate brake application is pretty straightforward once you get used to the feel of the unit. On the subject of resistance, in Barry Rowlands excellent review of the handbrake he outlined the possibility of upgrading the springs in the unit to provide more resistance if you desire. And there’s a link to that video in the description if you’re the sort of person that doesn’t mind getting your hands dirty.
As a sequential shifter the story is pretty similar. The gears shift with a positive movement and I’ve not experienced any issues with miss-shifting. As the resistance for the sequential mode is provided by the same springs as the handbrake, the feeling of weight is, well, the same. In comparison to the sequential mode on the TH8A shifter, this feels much more robust and affirmative, but those that are looking for the ultimate immersive sequential shifter may want to look for a more ‘industrial’ unit, and of course pay the corresponding premium.
For me, this is an area in which Thurstmaster absolutely demolishes the competition with the TSS Handbrake. The unit comes pre-drilled and tapped with 14 mounting points for you to attach to your sim racing rig, which should just about have you covered. But, if you’re a desk bound racer, there’s also the frankly excellent Thrustmaster Racing Clamp. I tried this out by attaching it to my desk and realised that it was stronger than the desk itself, so I decided to demonstrate it in the kitchen, so you can see just how stable it is.
It really is a solid piece of kit. Moreover, it comes with a side bracket to accommodate the TH8A shifter, which is an item that can be a bit of pain to mount otherwise. And, importantly for those of us with an Aluminium Extrusion fetish, the mounting points are positioned perfectly for use on 80/20 profile.
As a final note on the Thrustmaster Racing Clamp, since I’ve not seen a lot of discussion on the subject, the clamp itself will accommodate pretty much any conceivable thickness of desk (from 15 to 50mm), and crucially has high quality rubber pads to protect the surface. I say crucially, because, well I tested it in the kitchen. Thankfully, the counter top is like new and my marriage has survived another run-in with sim racing hardware!
My first impression of the TSS Handbrake was of a slick, robust unit that felt pretty impressive, especially when compared to the TH8A that I’ve been using for the last couple of years. And, this definitely looks and feels like a step forward from some of their earlier products. Thrustmaster’s collaboration with Sparco is clearly producing some nice kit! As I alluded earlier the TSS Handbrake feels substantially better than the TH8A in sequential mode, and for the vast majority of sim racers, this will tick all of the right boxes. But those looking for ultimate realism may want to look for a sequential shifter that provides a stronger mechanical response.