Improve Your Lap Times at Any Road Race Track With Garmin's Catalyst Digital Coach

By: Jean Genibrel  08-19-2023
Flatten the Learning Curve of Curve Learning©


Racing Secrets are no Longer Secrets. 



At AppliedSpeed, we have contacted our Garmin sources regarding a "Skunk Works" secret product for racing drivers who wish to improve their lap times. Now, we have received permission to release this new virtual lap time improvement instrument to drivers competing in road racing associations like SCCA, SVRA, SRO, IMSA, VARA, and NASA.  

INTRODUCING THE GARMIN CATALYST Race Driving Performance Optimizer

Creativity Meets Innovation

"If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses." - Henry Ford.


Innovation fosters ideas like creating the automobile instead of a faster horse. Innovators are exceptional visionaries who implement their talents to their visions. In racing, we can argue the merits of innovating with customer feedback, but "more power" is the answer most race drivers would give when asked how they want to go faster.

Driver Data Acquisition 

Introducing a New "Brain Shift" Instrument  

Garmin's novel racecar, err, Driver Data Acquisition system, requires shifting the brain gears. It is so different from other DA systems that it stands in a class of its own. It instructs you, the driver, how to drive most effectively. It tells you instantly with spoken prompts on the track where and when to adjust your driving without downloading to a laptop or leaving you to interpret the data with a lack of feedback. optimizer-cuts-racers-lap-times

The True Track Positioning feature, Opportunities, displays the driver's laps from a prior session. The lap in white is a past lap, and the optimal line displays in purple. The new system allows viewing without downloading to a laptop, and it gives audible prompts where the driver needs to improve. Drivers should work on one or two sections at a time.

Driver Targeted Ground-Breaking Technology  

Ground-Breaking True-Track Positioning™ technology uses built-in accelerometers, 10 Hz multi-GNSS positioning, and high-resolution image processing. This new technology automatically duplicates your racing line within a few centimeters. The data displays on the screen and with instant voice prompts as if you had a racing coach sitting in the right seat. From there, it parses the best line, braking points, corner entries and exits, and much more, and it prompts you with verbal cues.

This video with Garmin engineer and race driver Adam Spence details all the Catalyst's features. Each segment aids drivers at performing a particular function like turning, braking, accelerating, and more. By stitching all the opportunities, the driver attains his optimum lap time.

Reinforcing the Positive  

The new GPS-driven unit is an offshoot of Garmin's diversification in aviation, outdoors, sports, and automotive, rooted in the employees' passions. So, it is no surprise that the Catalyst is the brainchild of Adam Spence, road racer and engineer at  Garmin's "Skunk Works." The new instrument is a brand-new, Live Audio Coaching device virtual-race-driving performance analyzer that cues you to apply your driving changes with immediate voice coaching.  Understand that the new unit is a dedicated race driver coaching tool unequaled by any other racecar data acquisition device. You must interpret a spaghetti plate full of squiggly lines with other data acquisition racing instruments to figure out what you are doing wrong. The Garmin Race Driving Optimizer immediately tells and shows the driver what to do correctly to optimize any phase of his driving.  The optimizer then points to the best racing lines, braking, and accelerating metrics on track audio cues to coach the driver towards the best section and lap time.  The audio prompts tell you what to do, when, and where while on the track! 

When looking at the segment category, we get taken to a page that allows us to compare lap by lap every individual turn. There, you see that some of your turns are grouped. That is significant because it looks at your performance and identifies when you are compromising one corner for another corner. 

Brain Shift Technology  

The new Driver Performance Optimizer relies on the most highly accurate GPS receiver (10 Hz multi-GNSS)  and mates that with highly accurate maps created internally. We all know that with the general public's systems, that is impossible. Instead, the Garmin units coach the drivers with positive suggestions based on their driving, not someone else's interpretation of what he is doing wrong.    

Race Driving Coaches Rave About the New Driver Improvement Data Acquisition Device              

Former pro race driver and racing coach Ross Bentley, renowned in motorsports as the driver who reached success by optimizing his driving, is now a consultant to Garmin. The 1998 U.S. Road Racing Champion and 2003 24 Hours of Daytona winner has coached thousands of high-performance and race car drivers of all levels, ranging from beginners to Indy 500, Le Mans, and NASCAR winners.  Ross has lowered his lap times by nearly a full second on a familiar track, merely using the Garmin Catalyst, and to us at, that is how you apply speed!

Other data devices leave you with a plate of spaghetti to interpret. Even trained engineers need help to quickly interpret the data and then relate it to the driver. Garmin's Catalyst gives feedback turn by turn in audio form while on or off the track to identify the areas of improvement.


Disruptive Force Dictates New Ways of Thinking 

You probably have a checklist of checks and adjustments you perform before each race, like adjusting valves, checking ignition and cam timing, wheel alignment, checking corner weights, setting the best gearing, and more to tune the car to the track. 

So Why Don't you do the Same for the Driver? 

How do you get him tuned to the track? Most drivers are not Patrick Long or Jeremy Shaw. Drivers of that caliber have raced on most U.S. tracks, and they can recall their lines even years later. Using the Catalyst prepares you to perform your best to complement every time you return to the track. 

Race Parts Versus Driving Improvement 

How much would you have to spend on your car to gain a second? How many sets of tires would you have to wear out? How much fuel would you have to burn? How long would it take you to knock off just one second? How much would you spend on a $ 1500-a-daycoach? 

Look, you probably already spent a season's worth of racing cash on power enhancers like new cams, a cold air intake system, or the latest "trick" supercharger heat exchanger trying to lower your lap times. But, like Carroll Smith—a 1966 Ford GT40 Le Mans-winning cars' engineer—said: "Eventually, the driver is the one who has to win the race." And YOU are the driver!


The Catalyst is the only data-logging device that automatically logs the weather experienced while recording the data. I've shared in the picture the included dashcam that records the track and the driver's lines within a few centimeters.

"The developers of the Catalyst look at the instrument as a completely new category. It's like when snowboarding came out. It was not a new way of skiing but an all-new category of going down a snowy slope. The new instrument is more than just a racecar data acquisition device; it is a driver data acquisition device."

Meet the Garmin Team

Adam Spence

Adam Spence is a British racer and engineer who developed the Catalyst at Garmin USA in Olathe, Kansas. Adam has taken a very different approach from the older general-public systems. Spence: "There is no cartographic data baked into the device. All you see on it is a real track created dynamically by the driver."


Ross Bentley 

"Over the past couple of years, I have been consulting with Garmin, the same company that utilizes the highest GPS technology levels for products in avionics, marine, watches, and off-roading on a product for motorsport, and they just announced it. I had been reading the squiggly lines on other manufacturers' products for twenty years, and it still takes me fifteen minutes to dissect them. With the Catalyst, it is instantaneous!"

Peter Krause

"With this [the Garmin Catalyst], intermediate and advanced drivers progress more quickly based on objective information than anything except a very, very experienced coach in the right seat".

Ross Bentley is reviewing data from previous sessions. Times comparisons are shown on the right, and the best line is shown on the left of the 7-inch display. Even a professional driver/coach like Ross has knocked off nearly a second of his best time.

Meet the Catalyst Dealer

Jean Genibrel

"At APPLIEDSPEED.COM, we sell speed parts, and now we are selling the Catalyst because we deem the product to be the epitome of how to "Apply Speed." This new race driving performance optimizer digital driving coach has advanced above the GPS race lap timer. In my 40-plus years in many motor racing forms, I have never witnessed such an innovation to improve racers' performance. Garmin Race Driving Optimizer is a must-have for any road racer, new or seasoned."

Garmin's choice for the word "Catalyst" is quite fitting. Merriam-Webster defines a catalyst as "an agent that provokes or speeds significant change or action." Indeed, the new tool will surely provoke speed improvements by expanding any road race driver's driving envelope.

Key Unique, Innovative Features That Set the Catalyst in a Class of its Own.

Flatten the Learning Curve of Curve Learning©

The new innovative instrument is a virtual racing coach that yields immediate session analysis to help drivers of all levels achieve their full track driving potential.

  • True-Track Positioning™ —Using GPS technology and revolutionary True-Track Positioning™ technology uses built-in accelerometers, high-res image processing, and 10 Hz multi-GNSS sophisticated positioning to illustrate your driving line in the turns. Self-driving vehicles use similar centimeter-level precision technology and sophisticated GNSS position refinement techniques. Benefits — Massive improvement over past devices displays the car's racing line and braking within a few centimeters.
  • True Optimal Lap™ — Here is yet another improvement over older competitive devices. In road racing, the Catalyst logs your best lap times. Once you drive several laps, the Garmin Race Driving Optimizer illustrates the best possible time based on your best lines, race braking points, and throttle applications you drove in the sample laps. Benefits — The unit displays the best possible time, based on the lines you drove, and which are repeatable. So, if there is a fast turn just before a slower one that would require slower speed, the Catalyst adjusts your speed in the faster turn and adjusts the best lap time possible. This metric is not possible with the other so-called driver improvement tools.
  • See Areas of Gain — Following your session, you can immediately evaluate your performance to see exactly on the course your most significant areas of improvement reside. Automatically interprets data with your other laps and illustrate the most significant areas of gain on the 7" display.                                                                                Benefits — The device interprets the data for you and makes it available in audio form in real-time before every potential area of gain—no need to stop the car to download to a computer and interpret the little squiggly lines.
  • Optimal Line Performance — The Catalyst's adaptive coaching metrics compare the race lines you took, and they illustrate the fastest one, replete with instant audio and visual coaching cues for you to improve.                                                                        Benefits — You can change your lines and braking points to the most efficient ones to affect your lap and sector time.
  • Remote Cam (included) — You can playback crisp 1080p video on the device with time-synced overlays showing speed, lap data, and much more.                                                                        Benefits —  See what you did precisely when and where you did it with the synced overlay without downloading the data, so you do not need to remember what you did twenty minutes ago and where.
  • Performance Metrics — Shows your best lap time, adaptive delta time, number of laps, and session time. Compare performance data from other sessions and get instant adaptive suggestions.                      Benefits — This feature saves time in learning a track. Get ready for the race in just a couple of sessions.
  • Track Database — Comes preloaded with a global track database and added new road courses.                                                                          Benefits — Great if you travel to races. Learn new tracks without effort. Load your new tracks at will.
  • On-Device Session Analysis — Immediately review in-depth performance data.                                                                                    Benefits — Read off the large 7-inch display and review the data with voice cues from anywhere and identify your ideal race line based on previous laps.
  • Off-Device Session Analysis — Access full and detailed data summaries using Garmin Connect on a connected compatible mobile device or computer with the Garmin Connect™ app.
  • Mounts to the windscreen — The instrument secures magnetically for easy on-off from the suction cup adapter (included).
  • Included —32 GB microSD card (pre-installed), remote cam, wiring, and secure mounting options.

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