Drivers and team bosses from the GTE-Pro class of the FIA World Endurance Championship have praised the automated Balance of Performance system following its first year in action, but stressed there’s still room for improvement.
Following controversy over the management of BoP in 2016, the FIA and ACO implemented a new, automated system to remove human involvement.
The battle for the drivers’ and teams’ championships in GTE-Pro went down to the final race of the year in Bahrain, with Ferrari, Ford and Porsche all being in contention for the crowns.
AF Corse ultimately clinched a clean sweep of titles for Ferrari, with James Calado and Alessandro Pier Guidi taking both the drivers’ and teams’ championships to add to the manufacturers’ crown clinched in Shanghai.
BoP was a topic of debate for many when reflecting on the season, with Ford WEC team principal George Howard-Chappell giving the automated system a glowing review.
“It’s been a resounding success,” Howard-Chappell said. “The auto BoP system was something that everyone in this room worked on together to try and improve the situation over what we had before, and I think most people would agree it’s an improvement.
“It’s not necessarily perfect, but it is an improvement, and I think it’s killed a lot of the squabbling and bickering that was going on when it wasn’t an automated system where we knew what the result was.
“Clearly it’s still open to a bit of gaming, and if that’s what you choose to do you can do that. But as a system, everyone knows what’s coming and it appears to work. The racing’s very close.
“I think the one remaining thing is the way it ends up balancing the car means that they do a very similar lap time, but they’re not all as competitive as the other cars from a racing point of view, and that’s maybe something that needs to be revised in the future.”
Aston Martin Racing managing director John Gaw was pleased with how the system had worked, even only on a level of removing debate surrounding it after downplaying its significance in the first place.
“Honestly, I think it was always a red herring. I believe BoP was just something to give people an excuse, whereas now it has been taken out of the equation completely, nobody’s talked about it,” Gaw told Sportscar365.
“It’s actually not that important a part of how successful a car is at the weekend. What’s much more important is how the tires react with the circuit on different cars, even though they’re the same brand, because every car uses its tires differently, and you can see that.
“Look at Ford between Shanghai and Fuji. The BoP wasn’t different, the tire wasn’t different, but the performance was different.
“Auto BoP has, if anything, it has taken away that debate which is a good thing. It really is not about BoP. It’s about how you work with your technical partners, it’s about how you work with your team, how equal the drivers are, how reliable your car is – much more important stuff than BoP.”
Title-winner Calado agreed that it had removed much of the complaining over performance, but felt tweaks could be made in the future in order to make it easier for GTE-Pro cars to pass those in GTE-Am through traffic.
“I think in terms of lap time, everyone’s quite similar. There are cars out there with an advantage, some cars are mighty quick in the straights, some cars are good in the corners,” he told Sportscar365.
“It suits different tracks, but obviously it’s difficult on our side not having huge straight line speed, because it makes life very difficult in terms of getting through the traffic, overtaking is almost impossible because even some of the Am cars are quicker than us in a straight line. So this is something that maybe needs to be rectified for the future.
“But saying that, it’s an improvement over the previous years. It’s stopped a lot of the moaning and groaning, and we’ve just got to get on with it.”
Ford Chip Ganassi Racing driver Harry Tincknell agreed with his team boss’ summation that the BoP system could still be played, with the lack of human review meaning it may go unnoticed by the wider paddock.
“I think you could see early on in the year how there can still be games,” Tincknell told Sportscar365.
“I think making it more mathematical is certainly good. It makes it very logical. You can see if you’re that far ahead, you get that much weight.
“But at the same time, removing the human element means that if you don’t push quite as much as you could, the community doesn’t really know that, whereas a human might maybe be able to interpret it a little bit more.
“I think it’s still open to manipulation a little bit. But it’s been good.
“In the past I don’t think Ford’s had the best reputation, but we came out for the first race, qualified on pole by eight-tenths and won the race – we’ve just been pushing the whole year.
“But at the same time it is frustrating when you’re in a great car like the Ford GT and you get on the power and the car in front just drives away from you.
“In that respect, [Bahrain] is harder than say Shanghai which is a bit more rolling. Here’s a lot more slow speed, stop, turn the car and go.”