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Thiim Praises BoP for Aston GTE-Pro Title Success

Nicki Thiim praises Balance of Performance in GTE-Pro title success…

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

Photo: Vision Sport Agency

A season that started with difficulty and disappointment for one of sports car racing’s most iconic brands eventually ended on a positive note as Aston Martin Racing clinched the GTE-Pro drivers’ title at the Six Hours of Bahrain.

As part of the title-winning No. 95 squad in the FIA World Endurance Championship’s top GT category, Nicki Thiim is delighted to put this achievement to his name.

However, there is one factor that the Danish driver thinks gave the aging Aston Martin V8 Vantage GTEs the edge in the highly-competitive GTE-Pro class this season.

“We wouldn’t be able to compete at all if we didn’t have BoP,” he told Sportscar365. “[The car] is an old lady. I know there will always be people complaining about [BoP] when it isn’t going their way, and then [when it is in their favor], they don’t say anything!

“I think we kept low this year. We knew in some places we would not be good, but we didn’t say anything, we just got the best out of it. That’s what you see with BoP in GT3 or GTE. It’s good that we have it.”

With a total of ten Balance of Performance adjustments throughout the nine-race season in GTE-Pro, all with the attempt to balance the field and reduce the difference in performance between the turbocharged Ford GT and Ferrari 488 GTE against the naturally-aspirated Aston Martin and Porsche 911 RSR, it would be fair to declare 2016 as a controversial year for BoP.

All in all, this has made for a strange year in the Aston Martin camp, which started with disappointment but soon improved from Nürburgring onwards.

“If you had asked me six months ago, I was not really confident,” Thiim admitted. “Also with Ford and Ferrari bringing new cars, we expected they would be really strong. With consistency, we brought it up to them.

“Of course, BoP was a big thing for this year, with a lot of changes both ways. Bahrain was a bit easier and of course we knew we had to finish the six hours – you saw what happened to the No. 98 and No. 97. It could have been us. You’re never sure before you’re finished.”

The sway in performance between the various brands in GTE-Pro has resulted in three wins each for the Aston Martins, Ferraris and Fords.

“In the beginning of the season, Ferrari was really strong,” Thiim said. “At Le Mans, we also didn’t have the pace but we finished the race and got the points for second place in the WEC, which was really good for us.

“We only had good pace in Mexico, COTA was the same for everyone I think, and then here in Bahrain. But again, I will not complain. Everyone had it. Ford also struggled a lot in some places. You just have to get the best out of it when you have the pace.

“We just knew we had to do something. We really started coming up with a lot of good things. It’s all about a big learning curve over the year, but I didn’t expect it would be so quick that we could compete in the second half of the season.”

While there have been several changes in Aston Martin’s driver lineups for its pair of GTE-Pro cars this year, with the likes of Jonny Adam and Fernando Rees coming in and out of the championship, as well as a mid-season car change for Darren Turner, Thiim and co-driver Marco Sorensen have in fact raced together at all nine of the events.

Thiim has high praise for his fellow Dane, someone with whom he has been able to build a strong relationship as co-driver.

“It’s really hard to find in motorsport, with all the egos running around, a person who really wants the best for you,” he said. “It’s like that with Marco. We stood together in good and bad. The team spirit is so important.”

Looking ahead to 2017, Thiim is expecting more of the same in his plans, with a particular focus to defend his title.

“I want to challenge myself all the time, and I did that this year making the change from Audi to Aston,” he said.

“Many didn’t agree with it, but I said I wanted a new challenge and I wanted to do a full season in WEC. Not even one year after I signed a deal with Aston, I’m champion and it’s amazing.

“I’m pretty sure I will be back. Who doesn’t want to defend his world championship title? I’ll be there, learn from mistakes that happened this year, and do even better next year. And of course, Le Mans. I must win in the [GTE-]Pro category!”

Jake Kilshaw is a UK-based journalist focusing on European series for Sportscar365. Kilshaw was the founder of WorldSportsCar.co.uk and is a member of the Autosport Academy. Contact Jake

19 Comments

19 Comments

  1. WBrowning

    November 29, 2016 at 9:28 am

    Congrats to the Aston Martin team for their championship. They definitely made the best of it when the BoP pendulum swung in their favor and stayed out of trouble, finishing and running hard when it was not.

    Where are all the anti-Ford BoP flamers? Maybe it’s just early and the chevy fanboys are still in bed.

    • JamieR

      November 29, 2016 at 11:38 am

      Oh dear. The difference the Fix Or Repair Daily guys miss with BoP is its’ intentions vs being abused.

      If BoP wasn’t here, Aston wouldn’t be here as a small company does not have the financial means to develop a car at the same rate. Yes they had a clear advantage at times, but so did everyone else at some point minus the Porsche. Aston’s strength was finishing in a decent position at other races like you say ie Silverstone, Le Mans. Personally I think Thiim in particular was rapid all year, and Dunlop also did an excellent job. It all contributed.
      Ford lost respect and credibility due to clearly taking the p*ss with sandbagging, more so than Ferrari, in that they hid their performance in order to dominate at Le Mans. Their arrogance in denial, and their attitude towards Risi only made them more unpopular.

      Oh. By the way, last I checked Corvette ended the season with 6 titles, whilst the 67 car spent most of Petit Le Mans broken. As usual.

      • fourloko

        November 30, 2016 at 11:39 am

        the butthurt is real. not like they sandbagged during qualy at le mans and then dominated the race. is the hub problem they had at petite a supplier problem? i find it unlikely they mill their hubs in house. remind me how many races (Seasons) it took for corvette to win their first race? :kermittea.jpg

        • JamieR

          December 1, 2016 at 7:05 am

          Buthurt? I was merely pointing out how BoP was exploied by Ford so obviously.
          As o PLM, maybe that is what happens when you outsource all your cars and suppliers to the lowest foreign bidder I guess….

    • Bakkster

      November 29, 2016 at 12:22 pm

      While there’s room to criticize how Ford played the game in the WEC (and especially at Le Mans, going on the record with an inaccurate estimate of their pace and calling out the other OEMs as sandbaggers when it turned out they weren’t), really the criticism should primarily be (and always was) at the foot of the ACO and FIA.

      Ford did what they could to influence the process and give themselves the best chance to win Le Mans and the WEC, and they can’t really be faulted for that.

      What you can fault is the FIA/ACO for allowing the process to be manipulated and/or being incompetent at setting equitable BoP. It’s not Ford’s fault for getting a better BoP, it’s the FIA’s fault for allowing it in the first place.

      • Jake

        November 29, 2016 at 4:04 pm

        100% agree

  2. juneracer

    November 29, 2016 at 10:57 am

    85 kilo’s can make an old car very fast…even if you’re not on Michelin’s. the WEC GTE-Pro BoP methodology is certainly a bit cloudy for me…

    • N8

      November 29, 2016 at 12:39 pm

      More reactionary than cloudy for me. The BoP for the Aston is probably appropriate, but on the days were Ford and Ferrari were reeled in, it became virtually untouchable.

  3. NaBUru38

    November 29, 2016 at 12:13 pm

    Having more adjustments than races shows that Fis / Aco did a poor job.

    • Bakkster

      November 29, 2016 at 12:18 pm

      Especially when you look at IMSA and see just how good a job they did with the BoP in GTLM comparatively. IMSA proves there’s nothing inherently impossible about balancing N/A and turbo cars.

      It may be partially that IMSA has fixed tire choices. It’s possible a tire war just isn’t compatible with BoP anymore.

      • Mike S

        November 29, 2016 at 1:50 pm

        Yeah it does help that most GTLM’s are on Michelins so that variable is more constant. IMSA is a bit better in GTLM and they were starting to dial in the P2’s/DP’s a bit as well this year it seemed than the first year. If just the Mazda’s had better reliability it would of been even better in that class.

      • JamieR

        November 30, 2016 at 8:03 am

        Very true, something I’ve been saying all year. However BoP there still gets criticised, notably by Ferrari fans.

        Surely something is inherently wrong with the way the ACO conduct tests and calculations for there to be such a pendulum effect?

  4. Juneracer

    November 29, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    Mazda’s BoP was more of a TBoP, team balance of performance. they had the biggest gun for a long time and just couldn’t run it correctly.

  5. fourloko

    November 30, 2016 at 9:24 am

    at least in f1 we know who can engineer the best car

  6. John

    November 30, 2016 at 3:51 pm

    If Ford is called out for its LM24 BoP gamesmanship, then AMR gets the gold medal for BoP post LM. The BoP target is supposed to bring GTE cars within 0.3 percent of performance. Giving a car an 85kg weight break (approx. 8.0-9.0 percent)is absurd. See this 365 piece from earlier in the year regarding an earlier AMR BoP dance to understand the advantages. http://johndagys.wpengine.com/imsa/iwsc/michelin-gtlm-insider-the-knock-on-effect/

    • fourloko

      November 30, 2016 at 5:31 pm

      wow i never knew the aston had that much of a weight advantage (since they dont post bop like imsa)… and here i thought the corvette had it easy being 25kg lighter than the GT. good read as well

    • JamieR

      December 1, 2016 at 7:00 am

      But when a car is several years old and that makes sense, no? Better than pricing Aston (and others) out of the game?

      • John

        December 1, 2016 at 12:58 pm

        Its one thing to keep an older car reasonably competitive in its dotage and another to reward it with the championship…

        • Kenneth Christensen

          December 5, 2016 at 7:00 am

          I don’t really agree with this perception. The Aston didn’t win by sheer speed, but through stability and staying out of trouble. Any real benefit from BOP gained by Aston would have been shared by the 97 car and they were nowhere near the performance of the 95 car.
          Say what you will about the BOP, but the Aston is a completely outdated compared to the aerodynamic wizardry on both the Ford and Ferraris. Generally I think the BOP did a reasonable job of keeping everyone aligned (except the Porsches), especially in the second part of the season, with no one enjoying a significant benefit in regards to lap times. Lets not forget that Thiim is regarded by a lot of people to be one of the best GT drivers out there, and Marco Sørensen is a former GP2 race winner and Lotus F1 development driver. These guys really knows how to drive a car!

          No matter what, I hope next year will be as exciting as this.

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