The 24 Hours of Le Mans is the biggest race in endurance racing that is held annually near the town of Le Mans in France. This race is won by the sports car that covers the biggest distance in 24 hours, attracts top teams from around the globe, and gathers millions of views across multiple platforms.
To ensure fair competition and a level playing field during such races, the organizers implemented the balance of performance rules (BoP) nearly two decades ago.
What are the latest Le Mans balance of performance rules, and why have they been designed in the first place? Let’s dive deeper into the topic.
Here is the latest published BoP table for the 24 Hours of Le Mans. This year things would be a bit different, as the table used to be published ahead of each race of the season based on two rounds’ worth of data, and now the system was designed to be more consistent over the course of the whole season.
The balance of performance rules will not change until after Le Mans takes place. This will allow the competitors to simply enjoy the race as everything is already set.
Most hypercar manufacturers are happy with such a decision as it will ‘make life much easier’ for them. Fixed balance of performance rules allows the teams to balance the potential of the cars. Furthermore, there won’t be any incentive anymore for sandbagging.
The Federation Internationale de l’Automobile and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest have determined the BoP rules by using the potential performance data of every hypercar. Before the beginning of the season, over 500,000 simulations were conducted (some, on the engine test bench and in the wind tunnel).
|Vehicles||Mass (min. dry weight, kg)||Power (max. power, KW)||Energy (max. stint energy, MJ)||Refueling (add. docking time, s)|
|Toyota GR010 - Hybrid||1043||512||904||1.2|
|Vanwall Vandervell 680||1030||512||512||512|
In comparison with the balance of performance rules for Sebring, for the next three races (including the Le Mans), there will be a significant change in weight for the hypercar hybrids and a decrease in power level.
Balance of performance is not exactly a set of rules. It is more of a mechanism that helps ensure that all cars participating in the race maintain parity. That is done by adjusting limits on the car’s parameters (like the weight, horsepower, aerodynamics, and so on).
Balance of performance rules should also make racing more interesting to watch as this mechanism helps equalize lap times, so there will be more battles on the actual track.
By analyzing the car’s performance during the previous races and holding several tests, organizations assess the parameters of each car. After that, the officials decide which car would be slowed down with which parameters (fuel tank size, minimum weight, engine parameters, aerodynamics, tire size, etc.). This means that some hypercars can be artificially slowed down in order to achieve that ‘balance of performance’.
Before the introduction of BoP, some manufacturers dominated the racing championships by having an ‘unfair advantage’ over their competitors. If such domination persisted, it could simply crush the competition and, ultimately, kill the championship because who wants to watch a race where one team is faster than all the others - is that even a "race" then?.
Balance of performance rules were first introduced in 2005 in an attempt to create a level playing field between the participants.
Of course, not all racing fans are fond of the ‘balancing’ rules. There are plenty of car enthusiasts out there who would simply want to see the fastest cars win without them being artificially slowed down.
But the truth is that a monopoly is not desirable to nobody. Back when Ferraris and Porshe were winning all the time, 80% of the grid was made of these winning cars. Thankfully, today we are able to see a pleasant variety as there is no single ‘best’ hypercar.
In a nutshell, if the main reason why you love racing is because it’s quite a spectacle, then such regulations are a small price to pay for the entertainment. A world without BoP would turn racing into an arms race on an industrial scale, and even though these regulations are not easy, they are definitely a force for good.
But then the following problem arises…
With the introduction of balance of performance rules, some manufacturers have been accused of sandbagging several times. Cars would purposefully underperform during a BoP test so that they wouldn't get artificially slowed down later on.
There are also certain tricks that the manufacturers would resort to in order to win.
For example, if they knew that the weight of the car would not be checked after the racing, the team members added a tank with water that would then get released during the race.
In the cases when the size of the fuel tank is limited so that faster cars cannot run for too long without having to make a pitstop, manufacturers bypass this rule by placing plastic balls filled with air in the tank. A small hole would then get pinched in the balls so that they can get filled up with fuel during the race.
Le Mans's balance of performance rules are an incredibly important mechanism that maintains parity between the competing hypercars. Even though BoP is not perfect, all the organizations involved are committed to implementing the changes needed to ensure that the competition is as fair as possible.
This year, for example, the system will be a lot more consistent over the course of the season, which is considered by many as an amazing improvement. Now, if necessary, only the balance between the two different types of cars will be adjusted on the basis of the data accumulated during the first two events.