The majority of GTE manufacturers have shown support to the FIA and ACO’s automatic Balance of Performance system for GTE-Pro, in what organizers are calling an “innovative and ground-breaking” new process for sports car racing.
Full details of the system, which will go into effect beginning with next weekend’s FIA World Endurance Championship season-opening Six Hours of Silverstone were released on Wednesday, following eight working group meetings between manufacturers from October to March.
The new process, run entirely by a computer algorithm, eliminates the human element, which some had argued played a factor in a record ten BoP changes over the nine-round championship last year.
In addition to current WEC manufacturers Aston Martin, Ferrari, Ford and Porsche, both Corvette and BMW, which will enter the WEC in 2018 with a new GTE-homologated car, were part of the meetings.
“All the manufacturers had the chance to be involved in creating this thing,” Ford WEC team principal George Howard-Chappell told Sportscar365.
“We’re supportive and there’s a good chance it could be better than something that is as subjective-human viewpoints.
“Everyone know’s what’s coming based on the race results, so you can’t argue about it.”
Dr. Frank-Steffen Walliser, Head of Porsche Motorsport, agrees.
“At the end of the day it gives us a clearer set of rules, [of] how to handle it,” he said.
“It does not look like a decision was made in an Italian restaurant with a glass of wine… [Before] it sometimes did give the impression it was talked about outside. At least this is really over.”
The FIA and ACO have confirmed that the BoP will be locked down for the first two races, and with a 24 Hours of Le Mans-specific BoP, it means the first chance for a possible change will not be until the fourth round of the season at the Nürburgring.
For defending GTE Manufacturers champions Ferrari, having the auto BoP system only kick in after four of the ten points-paying segments of the season, is a concern.
“We’re analyzing the new idea but I’m not sure it will be the best solution,” Antonello Coletta, Head of Ferrari’s GT racing activities, told Sportscar365.
“We are free for the first two races because after the first race, we don’t change the BoP. The second race is the same of the first. Le Mans is another BoP.
“Then we would have the first chance to change the BoP with the new setup at half season.
“If the human understands very well of the technical questions, I don’t see the problem.”
Aston Martin Racing, which took the drivers’ and teams’ titles last year, however, has a different view, according to team principal Paul Howarth.
“Technology will always win; IT is everything,” Howarth told Sportscar365.
“The organizers and the FIA have a mix of manufacturers, normally aspirated and turbocharged cars; they have a big challenge to get everyone bumper-to-bumper.
“We all want good racing… I feel it’s a new look. Feedback has been taken and everyone’s reacted from the feedback.”
All four manufacturers stressed the importance of establishing a fair baseline BoP, which has taken into account 2016 performance, technical data provided by each manufacturer and results from both wind tunnel testing and the annual BoP test at Ladoux.
“The biggest difference for me is that we put much more effort into the starting BoP,” Walliser said. “That was a weak point of the past.
“If I look at the number of BoP changes that happened to the Aston Martin; I think there were more changes than races!
“This was not the right direction, to have way too much BoP discussion in the media.”
The Porsche GT boss also noted the introduction of world titles for the GTE drivers and manufacturers for this year factored into the BoP overhaul.
“Nobody had been happy with how the BoP was handled [up until last year], and the FIA said if you grant a World Championship title it should… be proper. That’s why they’ve put all the effort into it,” Walliser added.
“We needed a more reliable and sophisticated system for BoP than they used to have so it would not harm the World Championship title.”
With the fruits of the FIA, ACO and manufacturers’ labor set to be showcased over the course of the WEC season, Ford’s Howard-Chappell admits that BoP will never be perfect, even in a computerized world.
“It still can only deal with the performance that is shown,” he said.
“Peter Wright was the originator of the BoP back in 2005, and he always, always quoted, ‘I can only balance the performance I’m shown.’ That’s the key to it.
“It has the potential to be very good.”