Aston Martin Racing Managing Director John Gaw believes tire development had been the “biggest factor” in the Balance of Performance discrepancies that impacted the GTE-Pro class last year, which has now essentially been eliminated as part of the category’s BoP overhaul.
New-for-2017 rules have frozen tire development from both Michelin and Dunlop, with only three specifications of tires allowed from each manufacturer, and two of them declared prior to this weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-opening Six Hours of Silverstone.
Gaw feels that advancements in tire developments, namely AMR’s switch to Dunlops to re-ignite a tire war with Michelin in GTE-Pro, had an impact on the record ten BoP changes made over the course of the nine-round championship last year.
“I think the bigger factor last year in the BoP process was tire development, and I think that was the same in 2015,” Gaw said. “I don’t think tire development made it very easy for the people who do the numbers to get the BoP absolutely right.
“I think Le Mans was different, and the ACO didn’t have all the data to make the right decision.
“For Le Mans, they didn’t have all the right data, and the manufacturers didn’t tell them everything that they should have told them, in my opinion.
“But tire development has been the biggest factor in this championship for the last two years and clearly it’s not there this year because it’s set for the year.”
The essential freeze in tire development falls in line with the ACO and FIA’s new automatic BoP system, which debuts this weekend, based on a initial BoP determined from last year’s season-finale in Bahrain, as well as other data points.
Gaw said he’s optimistic on the potential of the new system, particularly with the starting BoP, which is locked in for the first two races.
“I don’t know how good the starting BoP is for the year, but I’m quite confident with it because it’s based on the Bahrain BoP from last year,” he said. “The big unknown is the Porsche. No one’s got any data on the [new mid-engined] Porsche.
“If we execute to the best of our abilities, and there’s a fair BoP, and there’s no discrepancy between tire development, then I believe we have a very good chance of doing very well.”
Another factor to play into the GTE-Pro battle this year is a further reduction in tire usage, with teams now only allowed up to four sets for six-hour races, instead of the previous six.
Gaw said the limitations is a “massive” factor to also consider, and one that will have a substantial effect on strategies throughout race weekends.
“First of all, for Free Practice, you’ve only got three sets versus four sets, and it means that if a driver flat-spots a tire or has a spin, it pretty much means you lose that whole session and you’re as well parking the car up,” he said.
“But that’s good because it forces everyone to operate at the highest level.”
Jake Kilshaw contributed to this report