The racing coach you always wanted

The racing coach you always wanted

Garmin’s Catalyst might look like a stick-on sat-nav, but it’s your key to faster lap times and race wins.


For those looking to shave a few tenths (or indeed whole seconds) off their lap times, improving your car with yet another engine remap or suspension upgrade may seem hard to resist. However, the reality is you’re probably better off trying to improve your driving rather than improving your car. And that is where the £899 Garmin Catalyst comes in.

Comprising a 7.0-inch tablet-style screen and separate 1080p camera (included in the box), the Catalyst is capable of timing, and analysing your laps on track. It’s a bit like the driving equivalent of a runner’s Fitbit. The company calls it a driving performance optimiser.

Sound familiar? It is. You’ll find a number of aftermarket rivals that can do similar (the likes of AMG and Porsche offer them built in to some new cars’ infotainment), yet none are capable of relaying back the information in such an easy-to-digest and intuitive format. Instead of plugging the Catalyst into a laptop and poring over complicated graphs like a frustrated F1 engineer, the Catalyst makes use of its large display to give you the data – and suggestions for improvement – there and then. Scrolling through the clearly laid-out menus and responsive touchscreen, there’s a staggering range of information on offer. For example, data and video of your ‘optimum lap’ (showing all of your fastest sectors stitched together) is automatically stored after each session. There’s 16GB of internal storage and a 32GB microSD card in the box.

You can go through each individual track sector in detail and compare your braking points, apex speed, turn radius, and track usage from one lap to another – especially useful if you have a pro driver lay down a benchmark for you. Yet it’s the ‘opportunities’ section where the real improvements can be made.

The Catalyst crunches the data and finds a number of points where you could be saving time. During my test session for an MG Trophy championship round at Oulton Park, the Catalyst suggested I take a tighter line into Shell Oils Corner as the ground covered would be less, yet the loss in exit speed would be negligible – thus saving a couple of tenths. You can even pair the device to a headset (not included) and set up audio cues when approaching a specific corner, or sector.

Cons? There’s no obvious tethering point on the device to act as a back-up should the magnet fail, and you can’t plug the Catalyst into the vehicle’s ECU for additional data – a feature on many rivals.


Does it work?

Yes. It may be pricey, but the Catalyst’s potential to improve your lap times is worth it. No need to be a pro to understand it, but there’s nothing amateurish about the useful data at your fingertips.

THE DRIVER’ S FITBIT HOW IT WORKS

  • 1 SET UP AND DRIVE 10Hz multi-GNSS positioning, image processing and built-in accelerometers capture your position on track and give live timing data
  • 2 TEABREAK DATA REVIEW The Catalyst shows your optimum lap and highlights prime areas where you could save time (and shows you how to do it)
  • 3 BREAK LAP RECORD Well, maybe… But use it properly (including audio cues) and the Catalyst can help you improve 
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