BMW and Aston Martin have called for the FIA and ACO to evaluate the possibility of reseting its automated Balance of Performance prior to the next six-hour FIA World Endurance Championship round, in light of its new-for-2018 machinery.
Both the BMW M8 GTE and all-new Aston Martin Vantage GTE make its WEC debuts in today’s season-opening Total Six Hours of Spa alongside returning GTE-Pro cars, largely in a continuation of its BoP from last year, compared to baselines set for the two new cars.
Under current rules, the starting BoP established, including for the BMW and Aston Martin, cannot change until the fourth round of the season at Fuji, with the auto-BoP system taking into account data from the two previous races, excluding the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which utilizes an event-specific BoP.
Even with that, only a certain degree of changes can be made from race-to-race under the auto system.
BMW Motorsport director Jens Marquardt said the governing bodies needs to evaluate the possibility for making changes sooner, considering the exceptional circumstances the 2018-19 ‘Super Season’ presents.
“I think that is something obviously the FIA and ACO have to look at,” he said. “It’s the very first time you have this kind of situation.
“So far, as I understand, there has only been an evolution package that had to be re-balanced. Now you have two new cars that have come into the system that over the last three years has been well-established.
“You have to look whether what you have in place takes care of that properly.”
The pair of MTEK-run BMWs and Aston Martins have been near the bottom-end of the GTE-Pro time sheets all weekend, with the No. 82 BMW of Tom Blomqvist and Antonio Felix da Costa qualifying fifth in class, the quickest of the 2018-spec cars.
Aston Martin’s new Vantages, meanwhile, will roll off from 8th and 10th in the ten-car field this afternoon, and more than two seconds off the pace.
According to Aston Martin Racing President David King, the British manufacturer is hoping for some “wiggle room” to allow for a reset.
“It’s difficult with two new cars in the championship this year,” King told Sportscar365. “I’m quite sure if things don’t genuinely look right, there would have to be some wiggle room.
“Right now, we’re working the process with the FIA and ACO and are confident we’ll get a fair chance.
“We’re not going to worry too much on how things go this weekend. It’s more about proving the car in the heat of competition.”
Marquardt agrees they need today’s race to play out before jumping to definite conclusions on a potential disparity in the class.
“If you take the Prologue, it was the first run,” he said. “Obviously compared to the Roar [at Daytona], there was no scrutineering so at the end of the day you have no idea what the cars are actually like.
“So honestly speaking, the first real data point is this weekend.”
When asked if there could be provisions for a BoP reset under the automated system, ACO Sporting Director Vincent Beaumesnil declined comment.
“We have an auto BoP and I will not go into details,” Beaumesnil told Sportscar365.
Auto BoP Made to Avoid “Quick Reactions”
Porsche GT Factory Motorsports director Pascal Zurlinden has argued the point of making changes outside of the defined two-race data point period, as had been the case throughout the system’s introductory season last year.
“At the end, the auto BoP process was made to avoid sandbagging and quick reactions, so that you look at the result of two races before the championship,” he told Sportscar365 “And I think this is the right way to do it.
“The auto BoP process should stay as it is. We are happy with the system. At the end of last year, we had close racing; it was the closest in a long time.”
Marquardt, however, believes provisions need to be put in place to ensure a balanced grid sooner, rather than later.
“BoP at the end of the day is very easy,” he said. “It’s called Balance of Performance, so you need to have a Balance of Performance as quickly as you can.
“If everybody starts at the same point, it’s different than having cars that are established and bringing new cars in.”
Daniel Lloyd contributed to this report