GPS and turn-by-turn voice directions have revolutionized the way we get from point A to point B in our cars. Whether it’s Siri telling us to keep right for the next exit or the pleasant-sounding lady in our cars’ in-dash navigation systems warning us of congestion ahead, we’re used to taking driving orders from disembodied voices. What if that same GPS-based guidance was used on a racetrack to help you find the fastest racing line? That’s the question the folks at Garmin asked themselves, and the answer they came up with is called the Catalyst.
Aimed at the serious track enthusiast, the Garmin Catalyst is a standalone performance data logger and lap timer with a unique coaching function. The unit is roughly the size of a small tablet and attaches to your car via a heavy-duty suction cup or screw-down mount. Using what Garmin calls True Track Positioning technology (which relies on a combination of accelerometers, a 1080p high-definition remote camera, image processors, and 10 Hz multi-GNSS positioning), the Garmin Catalyst can accurately trace your car’s path and log lap times.
Based on the data recorded, the Catalyst can give you real-time coaching tips on your next lap, too. It’ll verbally advise you with commands such as when to brake. If it works, it would be kind of like having a driving instructor riding shotgun. The virtual driving coach talks you through each turn from corner entry to exit and can be heard through a compatible headset or streamed via Bluetooth to the audio system (provided your race car still has one).
Once you pull into the paddock, you can watch video from your last run overlaid with various metrics and a calculated optimal driving line. The Catalyst produces that line by crunching your own personal driving data and simulating a best-case lap that is both achievable and repeatable. If you want, you can access data summaries on your phone or computer through Garmin Connect.
Though Garmin claims ace drivers and novices alike can benefit from the Catalyst, the casual track day-goer that sees a road course once or twice a year might find its price point a bit steep. The device retails for just under $1,000. Then again, if the virtual coach can whip you into a better driver, it might be worth the investment.