How a sat-nav can make you faster around a track

Posted in CAR NEWS on July 31, 2021

After three laps, the Catalyst has logged my lines and where I’ve been braking and getting back on the throttle. Now that it has this information, it can show me on subsequent laps where I could be turning in earlier or later or going faster. Which it starts doing.

The fastest corner at Thruxton is called Church. It’s probably the most exciting corner of any track in this country, with the possible exception of Fordwater at Goodwood. It’s flat in the Alpine. But, I wondered, what happens if I go through it at, say, 105mph, and the next lap my approach is slower but I’m slightly off line? Will the Catalyst tell me to go a bit quicker, because I’m going slower than the previous lap, or will it know that I am off line and wouldn’t be able to hold 105mph through the corner without running wide at the exit? I asked the boffins later, and apparently the Garmin does work that out.

After about a dozen laps, I’ve remembered the layout properly and have begun to enjoy myself. That’s always a worry. Sure enough, at one point, Hornsey calmly comments: “You’re going to run out of room.” Because he spotted my error early on, because the A110 is so well balanced and because, although I’m rusty, I have done a lot of this, a gentle lift was all that was needed. Miss Catalyst remained completely silent.

Later, back in the pits, we can look at my lines around the circuit and compare them with the ideal one. The Catalyst can also show you ‘opportunities’ for improvement, and that includes segments of video where you were quicker through a corner than before.

At £899, the Catalyst isn’t cheap. How useful it could be depends on its user’s level of experience and what they want to get out of track driving.

If I wanted to really improve my speed at Thruxton, I would spend my money on tuition from Hornsey or a similarly skilled instructor. I doubt that any amount of peering at the data on the Catalyst’s screen would make a huge difference.

However, I can see the appeal for those who are track-day addicts. The Catalyst adds an extra level of interest. And as Matt Prior wrote in an excellent recent column, a track day in a heavy fast car will burn up at least £899 in tyres.


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