Garmin Catalyst Review – Optimal Lap Any Good?

This is not a full Garmin Catalyst review. Instead I wanted to share my experiences with using the Garmin Catalysts optimal lap feature. Included are the optimal lap video it creates, plus an actual lap you can compare that against.

Yes there is lots I can improve on my driving! – but I guess that is the point.

Hope you find this useful and be sure to sign up to Ahead of the Curve for my latest articles to help make you faster on track.

For my Garmin installation pictures see above and also this article on choosing the best lap timer.

Garmin Catalyst Optimal Lap Example:

Click to review this Garmin Catalyst Optimal Lap (there is no sound)

The video shows what the optimal lap the Garmin Catalyst put together over one qualifying and 2 races.

You can see my personal best time (1.18.39) and then the optimal lap delta of where I lost time against better laps.

For your reference, the lap record (set during one of the races in this video) is 1.17.56.

I don’t really know how I feel about this. On the one hand very happy that my optimal lap (1.16.64) was about a second faster. On the other despair I wasn’t able to get closer! Haha!

Unlike normal sector analysis (learn more about cutting sectors here) the unit is trying its best to create an optimal lap you could actually do.

With sector analysis there is a concern that the sectors being compared are not feasible for you to string together.

The Garmin Catalyst aims to do away with that worry. Apart from a jump toward the end of the optimal lap above (about 1.09) you can see that it does a fairly good job.

For whatever reason, the Garmin Area 51 guys decided we didn’t need sound for the optimal lap. I get this as it will possibly be a bit jumpy.

The primary goal for the optimal lap is therefore to help you envisage the best line. I’d still like the option to turn the sound on though as it would help understand the feasibility aspect again – for example gear choice.

In the optimal lap above you can see one bit (at about 43 seconds) which cuts to the race where I’m suddenly behind two cars. It was damp and for the only time over the weekend I dropped it into 2nd for that short straight.

Just at the gear change point though it switches back to another lap where I was already in 3rd. The time loss in the gear change is not feasible – certainly in my car.

So having the sound would make it easier for you to analyse this – and also to remember if you are coming back to review after a while where you might forget that kind of detail.

My guess is that with the sound it would still be close enough – as there are few discontinuities in the speed between cuts.

Actually Fastest Lap

Onboard lap of Anglesey – Delta compared to Garmin Catalyst optimal lap

In the video above you can see my best actual lap. This has the sound. Oh and you can also see that we do get sunshine every so often here in the UK 🙂

The delta is against the optimal lap. This is also interesting as you can see parts of this lap are used within the optimal lap.

Personally I like the layout of these videos. They’re clear and nicely designed. They do take a long time to generate though.

Issues Experienced With The Garmin Catalyst

What is not always clear is what laps the Garmin is stitching together. For the optimal lap, you might find it more useful to have an idea of what video bits its using, especially across days and conditions. It would also be good to have the choice on what laps to include or not, in the optimal – for when it sometimes gets confused (like short in-laps at the end of a session.)

We had 3 races but were only able to record 2. For the race I missed, it just sat there trying to acquire satellites. What I think happened is that there was a low battery level problem. I’d used the Garmin off the car for some review work.

The battery died doing this. I then put it back on the car but don’t think there is enough current coming through to charge the battery enough to use it.

For longer events this might be a concern or their might be a better way I can mount the charger – but it’s direct to the battery at the moment.

On the data, there is now a phone app which enables you to look at the squiggly lines. I struggled to get it to work so didn’t use it at the track. I do just wish they’d make an .csv file available and just let us get on with it – but perhaps I’m in the nerd minority there?

What isn’t made obvious is that as a consequence of not allowing you to get to the raw data on the device, if the device gets broken you loose your data. This seems a shame and I hope they find a solution for this.

Best feature: The speed you can get this information

Without doubt, the best feature of the Garmin Catalyst is the speed at which you can get access to what you’ve done. As soon as you stop the session the video (inc the Optimal lap) is there for you to see.

The videos are their immediately. I’ve even reviewed this whilst still strapped in the car – after quali in park ferme and also during test days. All the other drivers like to come and have a nosey now too!

The opportunities are interesting too – although sometimes I think it gets a bit confused on these – especially if it hasn’t worked out the outside of the track properly. Sometimes you get some wave lines!

Challenges remain: Putting the theory into practise!

The primary challenge with data, be it a Garmin Catalyst review or any other data system review, is the theory is one thing, putting it into practise is another.

Just because you know what to do doesn’t mean you find it easy to do. But honestly I like that – if it was easy anyone could do this.

Talking with a driver recently in a coaching session we used the analogy of splitting the mental and the physical. The data and this Garmin unit, gives you more clarity (and more quickly) on what could be the fastest line, around the track – certainly from the ones you’ve tried.

The physical bit is then how you translate that into your driving. Having the ability to be able to do the analysis whilst sitting in the pits, still in the seat and strapped in, is game-changing in my humble opinion.

Yes the Garmin Catalyst doesn’t yet have the analytics capability of its competitors. The usability for what it does offer however is exceptional.

If you give one a go, be sure to sign up below and let me know how you get on with it too.

Hopefully you’ve found this insight useful.

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