The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest have devised a new system of determining the Balance of Performance that must be added to the 2017 LM GTE Pro World Endurance Championship cars. Rather than a system that is structured from the start of the season and affects the cars in the same way throughout the season, a new ‘automated’ system is now in place which determines the BoP on a race-by-race basis.
It was felt that, due to the introduction of a new breed of GTE Pro cars last season, the BoP system was not producing the results it should have done and so the racing was not getting closer on track but further apart. A clear favourite was developed in the LM GTE Pro field and that is exactly what BoP is supposed to prevent.
The new system is supposed to be more transparent than it’s 2016 predecessor. It removes the human element out of the system, meaning that the BoP is assessed and produced by a piece of software that works with statistics and figures rather than human judgment. The BoP will be adjusted race-by-race using a preset equation or algorithm that has been developed by the FIA and ACO. Although it promises transparency, this algorithm has not been published and is not known by anyone outside of the FIA or ACO.
A document was released to inform the teams on how the new BoP would be calculated. This document stated that 60% of the laps by the fastest car from each manufacturer will be used to work out how BoP will be adjusted. So the pace of all the cars on the 2017 field, Porsche, Ford, Ferrari, and Aston Martin will be submitted to determine how the BoP will be set.
It appears that the equation also takes into account the two best stints over a six-hour race, the straight line performance, and the pace in different sectors of the lap from the fastest car of each manufacturer. Manufacturers with cars that have not covered enough distance or are excessively slow will have no change. This is also the case for abnormal weather conditions like the snow that affected the 2016 6 Hours of Silverstone.
BoP affects the cars and their pace by altering the minimum weight and power output of the cars. This is done to try and get wheel-to-wheel racing by forcing the cars to be of a similar pace whilst on track. The adjustments are capped at a maximum of 20kg and 10kW (around 13.5bhp). After all, the BoP is only to try and aid closer racing, not a factor in which to forcibly slow down a much faster car. That would be the job of the slower team to catch up to the pace setters.
The 24 Hours of Le Mans will have its own BoP system due to the nature of the circuit, so it will not follow the new algorithm.
This new BoP system will not start taking effect until after the blue-ribboned event. The FIA and ACO have agreed to allow teams two races for the algorithm to be tested with real-time data gathered at the 6 Hours of Silverstone and the 6 Hours of Spa. This would mean the first race the new BoP system will come into action would be Le Mans, but due to the circuit’s exception to the system, the first race to use the new equation to generate BoP will be the 6 Hours of Nurburgring.
Ahead of the season opener at Silverstone, the BoP has already been published. All cars have been given more power to make sure a gap, albeit small, remains between them and the LM GTE Am field. There is an additional 15kg on the Aston Martin Vantage GTEs for this season, which could explain why they were consistently slowest in the class during the Prologue at Monza.