Welcome to my latest post on T’s Corner. Today, I’ll be reviewing the new Garmin Catalyst and sharing my experience of installing and having a brief opportunity to use what the company has dubbed its Driving Performance Optimizer.
Whether you’re about to attend your first high performance driving event at the race track—or perhaps you’re a seasoned veteran at your local circuits and even some in far away lands—we all tend to measure our success by how quickly we manage to get around a road course.
Besides some of the more hard-lining indicators such as not hitting any barriers, crashing into other participants, or getting sent home early, the most empirical measurement of how well you’re faring at the race track, is your lap time.
Sure, this can be as car-based as it can be driver-dependent. After all, it’ll take an enormous gulf in driver skill for a stock ’88 Honda CRX to best a Porsche 911 GT3. But chances are that the track day you’ve been invited out to will have other cars at a similar if not identical performance level as yours; close enough to reasonably conclude whether it’s the car or driver that’s putting in the real work.
For recording these times, we already have in-car GPS-based lap timers to help us. They’re not particularly uncommon—most somewhat serious track go-ers have some version of one—and in conjunction with video recording equipment, most setups will do a really good job at providing the data that drivers (and their coaches) can analyze in order to become faster.
What Is It?
The Garmin Catalyst, which I picked up over Black Friday last year (I’ve had to wait out an entire winter season before I could test it out) does all of the above in a single package. Not all telemetry (such as pedal inputs) is captured though, so you’ll need to piggyback with other software/hardware to have all of that overlayed on your video as well.
It also offers something unique; namely, its new-to-the-industry AI coaching module which is delivered via voice output in real time while you drive. Needless to say, this feature is what clearly differentiates it from other lap timers/HPDE aids in the market. There’s also “Summary” based coaching, which provides a more deep-dive analysis of your session after you bring your car back into the pits.
Best of all, the Garmin Catalyst is plug-and-play, in the most genuine sense of the phrase. This to me, is as groundbreaking as all the AI stuff, because most other systems are not user friendly and require a moderate level of tech-savviness just to get going.
Image Source: Winding Road