garmin catalyst in review mode mounted to a porsche dashboard

Garmin Catalyst: Boost Your Sessions Post Instructor

The Catalyst is a game-changer for track enthusiasts, especially solo drivers. It offers nuanced insights beyond basic metrics and narrows the gap between professional coaching and self-navigation.

Track days are a thrilling journey of self-discovery and skill refinement. Over time, I’ve leaned on various tools to gauge and enhance my performance. My initial go-to was the Track Addict mobile app, a stellar lap-timer packed with impressive features. While it’s a commendable tool in its own right, juxtaposing it with the Garmin Catalyst feels like comparing apples to oranges. Each has its distinct strengths, but the transition from having an instructor by your side to going solo raises the question of: Which tool can emulate that invaluable coach-like presence in the car? No gadget, not even the Catalyst, can wholly replicate the nuanced feedback of a seasoned instructor. However, the Catalyst ambitiously endeavors to bridge this gap, offering insights that resonate with the solo driver’s quest for guidance.

The Garmin Catalyst: The Transition from in car instruction

Garmin catalyst in review mode mounted to a porsche dashboard

Transitioning from having an instructor by your side to driving solo on the track can be a daunting experience – it certainly was for me! That instructor is not just a guide but a kind of safety net, providing real-time feedback, corrections, and reassurances. When I was soloed, a part of me wondered: How would I continue to improve without that immediate feedback? How would I know if I was pushing too hard or not hard enough? Basically, how do I keep myself in check? This is where the Garmin Catalyst came into the picture.

The initial investment in the Garmin Catalyst is significant, and I had reservations. Was it truly going to fill the gap left by my instructor? The answer, I found, was kind of. The Catalyst offers real-time feedback, much like an instructor would, analyzing every aspect of my drive. But it goes beyond just feedback; it provides actionable insights tailored to my driving style and the specific track conditions. The Catalyst will give you some feedback and input while you’re driving, but obviously nothing compared to an instructor. It can’t reach over and grab that wheel if you need an emergency correction!

The Garmin Catalyst isn’t just another piece of tech you add to your racing arsenal; it’s a transformative device designed to elevate your track experience. But to truly appreciate its value, we need to understand its core functionalities and the philosophy behind its creation.

The Garmin Catalyst Approach to Performance Analysis

Traditional lap timers and data loggers provide raw data which, while valuable, often requires interpretation by experts or additional software to make sense of. The Catalyst changes this paradigm. Instead of merely presenting data, it interprets it in real-time, offering actionable insights and feedback. This means that instead of sifting through numbers post-session, you get immediate, concise, and clear feedback on your performance.

A Personalized Coach

Imagine having a seasoned racing coach with you every time you hit the track, analyzing every turn, every brake, every acceleration. That’s the Catalyst for you. Its On-Track Driving Coach feature provides real-time audio cues, guiding you on the fly. Whether it’s advice on taking a turn or feedback on your braking, the Catalyst is there with you, ensuring you make the most of every lap.

Adaptive Learning

One of the standout features of the Catalyst is its ability to adapt. The True Optimal Lap technology combines your best times for each track segment, showing an optimum drivable time based on lines you’ve actually driven and can replicate. This isn’t about chasing an unattainable perfect lap; it’s about understanding your capabilities and incrementally pushing your boundaries.

Designed for the HPDE'r

The Catalyst isn’t a generic piece of tech; it’s crafted with the HPDE’r in mind. Its features, from the APEX Performance for cornering insights to the Real-Time Lap Data for on-the-spot performance metrics, are all aimed at one thing: making you a better driver.

In essence, the Garmin Catalyst is more than just a device; it’s a companion on the track. It embodies a shift from passive data logging to active, real-time coaching, ensuring that every time you’re on the track, you’re not just driving – you’re improving. With the Catalyst by my side, I no longer feel as anxious as I did, not having an instructor by my side; instead, I feel empowered, knowing I have a tool that helps me incrementally refine my driving with each session.


Garmin catalyst camera e1692375868683

The Catalyst isn’t just about spitting out numbers; it’s about understanding your drive. Let’s break down its standout features:

  • True Track Positioning: This isn’t your everyday GPS. With 10 Hz multi-GNSS positioning, image processing, and accelerometers, it crafts your racing line with precision. It’s like having a bird’s eye view of your car’s movement on the track.
  • On-Track Driving Coach: Remember those days when you wished for real-time feedback? The Catalyst listens and delivers. Through Bluetooth, it offers audio cues, guiding you at every twist and turn.
  • True Optimal Lap & Apex Performance: Ever wondered if you could shave off a few more seconds from your lap? The Catalyst combines your best times for each segment, showing where you can push harder and where you need to ease. It also aids in understanding the best lines to take around corners.
  • Data at Your Fingertips: With real-time lap data, adaptive coaching, and a remote cam that captures HD video, post-session analysis becomes a breeze. Dive deep into your performance, understand your braking zones, and compare laps from different sessions.

Making the Most of the Garmin Catalyst

The Garmin Catalyst is not just another lap timer; it’s a revolutionary real-time driving performance optimizer. But to truly harness its potential, one must understand how to effectively use it both on and off the track. Fun fact, Ross Bentley was a consultant involved in the development of the Garmin. Knowing this gives me further confidence in the recommendations the Catalyst makes.

One thing I did find somewhat challenging when I first started using the Catalyst was how best to use the data – there’s a lot, so where does one start? Enter Ross Bentley’s 5-15-1 Process.

The 5-15-1 Process

The 5-15-1 Process, as outlined in the Catalyst guide by Ross Bentley, offers a structured approach to utilizing the Catalyst’s capabilities, especially during those tight intervals between on-track sessions. The process is designed to help drivers make the most of their limited time, whether they have 5 minutes, 15 minutes, or an entire hour.

If you have 5 minutes between sessions:

  • Focus on one major improvement area. This could be derived from the difference between your best and optimal lap times.
  • Review the top 3 opportunities highlighted by the Catalyst. These are areas where significant lap time gains can be achieved.
  • Watch the Optimal Lap video to visualize and internalize the ideal driving technique.

If you have 15 minutes between sessions:

  • Delve deeper into all three opportunities provided by the Catalyst.
  • Prioritize consistency. A consistent lap time often indicates a solid driving technique and understanding of the track.
  • Use mental imagery to visualize the techniques required to capitalize on the identified opportunities.

If you have 1 hour between sessions:

  • Dive into the Segments tab of the Catalyst. This provides a granular breakdown of your performance across different track sections.
  • Spend ample time on mental imagery, reinforcing the insights gained from the Catalyst.
  • Before heading back on track, watch the Optimal Lap video once more to solidify your game plan.

Personally, I also think it’s beneficial to have a digital/physical track map alongside the Catalyst’s digital insights. Writing down key takeaways and strategies can further cement them in your mind, preparing you for the next on-track session.

I believe this explains The Catalyst in a nutshell. Whilst it does provide you feedback on track, its primary role serves to coach you off track. You then take those tidbits of input and set one or two of them as your goal(s) for the next session.


The Garmin Catalyst is a powerful tool, but like any tool, its effectiveness is determined by how you use it. In my opinion, one of the standout features is the ability to turn off the screen while on track. This prevents the temptation to chase lap times and allows me to focus solely on my technique.

Here are some practical tips to ensure you are maximizing its potential.

Onboard with the Garmin Catalyst

  • Positioning is Key: While the device comes with a default windshield mount, many users, including myself, find it obstructive. I’ve found that mounting it over the GT4’s PCM (I never use it day-to-day) with this T-Design mount provides a clear view and easy access. I have no desire to look at lap-times, but have harnesses so need this to be reachable when strapped in! Remember, the Catalyst should enhance your driving experience, not hinder it.
  • Audio Feedback: Real-time coaching is one of the Catalyst’s standout features. However, the roar of the engine and the rush of the wind can make it hard to hear. Investing in a good pair of Bluetooth headphones that fit comfortably under your helmet can make a world of difference. I personally use a budget-friendly pair I found on Amazon, and they work wonders.

The Catalyst Data

  • Review Sessions: Post-session reviews are where the Catalyst truly shines. Take the time to go through the feedback. The visual representation of braking zones, in particular, can be a game-changer. While it might take a bit to decipher the visuals initially, once you get the hang of it, you’ll find invaluable insights into where you can shave off those precious seconds.

It should be noted that pairing the Garmin Catalyst with something like a reMarkable 2, iPad or other tablet is extremely beneficial. Quickly jotting down opportunity notes on the reMarkable 2 helps me remember what my goal(s) should be for the next session.

Garmin catalyst opportunity 3
  • Share and Compare: One of the less-talked-about features of the Catalyst is its ability to compare laps from different sessions and even different users. This is a fantastic tool for those looking to learn. By comparing your laps with more experienced drivers, you can gain insights into where you’re losing time and where you can improve.
  • Embrace the Process: Ross Bentley’s 5-15-1 Process, specifically designed for the Catalyst, is a must-try. It’s a structured approach to using the device, ensuring you are focusing on the right things at the right time. The process emphasizes understanding the feedback, implementing changes, and then reviewing the results. It’s a systematic way to ensure continuous improvement.

Other Catalyst Tips

  • Regular Updates: Like all tech devices, the Catalyst receives regular software updates. These often come with new features, improved algorithms, and bug fixes. Ensure you are running the latest software version to make the most of your device.
  • Battery Care: While the Catalyst boasts a robust battery life, it is essential to ensure it is adequately charged before hitting the track. There’s nothing more frustrating than your device dying mid-session. A simple tip is to make charging a part of your pre-track routine. Or better yet, install the charging cable directly into your car like many of us do.

Incorporating these practical tips into your track sessions will ensure you are not just using the Garmin Catalyst but truly benefiting from it.

Final Thoughts: Is The Garmin Catalyst Worth the Investment?

In a market flooded with track tools, the Catalyst stands tall. Its unique blend of real-time coaching, in-depth analysis, and a user-friendly interface sets it apart. Comparing laps, understanding braking zones, and the sheer depth of data it offers makes it a worthy investment.

It may be costly at $999.99 but in my opinion, yes, it is worth the money. However, I would add: it is worth it at a certain point in your track day / HPDE progression.

Just starting out? Still in the Green / Novice Group? One of the mobile Apps and a Bluetooth GPS Receiver will serve you well.

Mobile Apps

Track Addict – $8.99
Harry’s LapTimer – $19.99
Hotlap – FREE


Progressed to Yellow / Intermediate or above? I think this is an invaluable tool to have in your setup. Use it right, and you’ll absolutely notice your on track gains. Again, I do recommend reviewing Ross Bentley’s 5-15-1 Guide to make it rewarding and useful while you are at the track. You can have all the data you want, but if you aren’t reviewing it properly you are not going to improve.

The Garmin Catalyst is more than just a tool; it’s a track companion. It’s well-made, offers value for money, and is a significant upgrade from other tools in the market. 

Driving is as much about skill as it is about understanding. Tools like the Garmin Catalyst aid in that understanding, offering insights that can transform your track performance. But remember, at the end of the day, it’s about the bond between the driver, the car, and the open track. Here’s to many more track days and the endless pursuit of that perfect lap!

The Garmin Catalyst Pros:

– On track coaching and real-time feedback
– Extremely easy, intuitive and dare I say fun to use
– Easy data comparison with your track buddies allows you to learn from them off-track as well
– Syncs nicely with mobile device

And Garmin Catalyst Cons:

– Not a fan of the camera quality and currently no third-party camera can be added
– Microphones are way too sensitive and pick up a ton of wind noise
– No OBDII connection so no real acceleration/brake/gear etc. information

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