Let’s give this clever box of tricks a go and see if it can unleash the hidden Jacky Ickx in me. It’s unlikely, but there might be a little extra pace to be dragged out of this old dog. I might even be able to impress our young-gun road testers next time I’m out on a track with them.
Garmin’s aviation products have been guiding me safely around the skies ever since I learned to fly, so perhaps its new Catalyst gadget will prove to be equally useful at ground level. Garmin calls the Catalyst a driving performance optimiser but, put simply, it’s a data logger. Using 10Hz sat-nav, image processing and a built-in accelerometer, the Catalyst knows exactly where you are on the track to within inches.
It isn’t the first such gadget on the market: we’ve been using Racelogic VBox for years and there’s also the Aim Solo. The Catalyst’s appeal is that it lets you look at all the data as soon as you get out of the car, without having to first download it onto a computer or phone app (although you can do both also). And it features a video camera so you can replay the action later. There’s more to it than that, but the best way to explain it is to try it out.
Garmin has invited a group of journalists to an event at Thruxton to test the Catalyst for real. This is an interesting choice, as the Hampshire track is the quickest in the UK. I haven’t been here for 20 years; my last visit was to race a TVR Tuscan.
Today, there’s a fleet of Porsche Caymans and Alpine A110s being divvied up for the hacks to drive. To my delight, I’m in one of the French cars. Next to me will sit instructor David Hornsey, whose job will be to make sure that it comes back in one piece and that I understand how the Catalyst works and how best to use it.
The unit’s base suckers onto the windscreen, preferably where you can see its screen but also the next apex, and then the Catalyst itself attaches itself to the base/charging unit magnetically. One wire goes to the car’s fag-lighter socket and another wire goes to the camera that’s fixed to the windscreen just below the mount for the rear-view mirror.