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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

What is BoP? The regulation that's part of sports car racing

BoP, which stands for Balance of Performance, is consistently a key talking point of the Le Mans 24 Hours, yet it leaves a lot of fans scratching their heads.

#311 Whelen Cadillac Racing Cadillac V-SeriesR: Pipo Derani, Jack Aitken, Felipe Drugovich
BoP is a part of how sports car racing is governed, but making sense of it is not always easy given much of it is hidden from the public domain. 
Manufacturers in the World Endurance Championship are even forbidden from discussing BoP, however some facts are still known.

What is BoP?

BoP is a set of technical adjustments that aim to ensure parity across a sports car racing grid whether it’s WEC, DTM or GT World Challenge.
It achieves this by altering the parameters of a car such as horsepower and weight, while UK championships like British GT also implement success penalties which include an increased minimum time in the pitstop for the top three finishers in each class from the previous race. 
BoP is assigned through the analysis of a car’s recent form while organisers in WEC, for example, draw on data measured during homologation which is the certification process to ensure vehicles are conforming to technical standards.
But every championship is different in how it enforces BoP. One common part of it is success ballast, which attempts to stop a car, or at most a few of them, from dominating a championship by pegging them back when they are successful. 
This is done by adding weight to said car(s). In DTM, for example, the winner of the previous race has 20kg extra for the next contest, while it is 10kg for who finished second and 5kg for third. This differs slightly to WEC’s LMGT3 class, as the 2024 Imola 6 Hours featured Manthey Pure Rxcing Porsche racing with 30kg extra for winning the previous race and for leading the standings at the time. 
#12 Hertz Team Jota Porsche 963: William Stevens, Norman Nato, Callum Ilott

#12 Hertz Team Jota Porsche 963: William Stevens, Norman Nato, Callum Ilott

Photo by: Emanuele Clivati | AG Photo

That system was not so popular in the British Touring Car Championship though, which up to 2021 had the pre-weekend championship top 10 carry success ballast on a sliding scale from 75kg to 9kg for free practice, qualifying and race one. The same levels of ballast were then given to the top 10 finishers from race one for the second race of the weekend, and from race two to race three.
This system was subsequently replaced for 2022 to coincide with BTCC’s transition to hybrid cars. Since then, the series has enforced a penalty which, as of 2024, limits a hybrid power boost during qualifying and the races for the top seven cars in the championship and/or grid. The minimum speed at which it can be deployed is also higher for those cars than the rest of the championship. 
So, BoP does often cause a lot of controversy. Formula 1 world champion Max Verstappen has long expressed his desire to compete at Le Mans, but previously voiced a hesitation to do so until it changed its BoP.
This came after Ferrari won the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours, where it received more favourable BoP limits. That’s because reigning champions Toyota had 36kg added to its car, meaning it was 13kg heavier than the Ferrari, which Toyota driver, team principal and 2021 winner of Le Mans Kamui Kobayashi said pre-race that it would cost the Japanese manufacturer 1.2 seconds per lap. 
These changes were presented to teams just four days before cars were due on track for the test day, and governors made no attempts to gain the unanimous agreement that in theory was needed to make the alterations outside the Hypercar prescriptions. 
So, questions were inevitably raised over how much Ferrari’s victory was contrived, especially when it was the only round of the season that Toyota did not win. Despite Toyota’s dominance of WEC though, there is still an argument that BoP improves the racing spectacle because more often than not it does bring the grid much closer together.
Taking the 16-round, 2023 DTM season for an example, no more than three of those races were won by a single driver. Meanwhile, a manufacturer has not won consecutive Super GT500 titles since Lexus in 2017, while Mercedes was the last to go back-to-back in Super GT300 in 2018.
#94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Stoffel Vandoorne, Paul Di Resta, Loic Duval

#94 Peugeot Totalenergies Peugeot 9X8: Stoffel Vandoorne, Paul Di Resta, Loic Duval

Photo by: Emanuele Clivati | AG Photo

That openness is something many fans of open-cockpit racing, mainly F1, strive for given Red Bull won 21 of 22 grands prix in 2023 which likely would not have happened had BoP been a part of the series. 
Alpine, for example, may have been able to recover the 30bhp deficit that it claimed was affecting its campaign, Mercedes could have resolved its unstable rear end by having freer rain to position ballast, while it’s unlikely that Williams’ aerodynamic struggles would have been as significant. 
But, since its inauguration in 1950, F1 has been about building the fastest car making it as much of an engineer’s championship as a drivers one. Just think of some of the team principals: Andrea Stella at McLaren, Mike Krack at Aston Martin and Haas’ Ayao Komatsu - all of these bosses are trained engineers and that’s not what BoP really stands for.  
So that’s why Mercedes chief Toto Wolff thinks introducing BoP to F1 “should never even be talked about” because it would be a “catastrophe” to the series. He believes F1 should remain a meritocracy where success is rewarded rather than, to an extent, punished. 
Ferrari’s Fred Vasseur echoed those thoughts, as he said: “I’m not a big fan of the Balance of Performance or any kind of artifice like this. It's not the DNA at all of Formula 1.”

What was the BoP for the 2024 Le Mans 24 Hours? 

The Le Mans 24 Hours Hypercar BoP uses data from the previous year’s race, which separates it from the rest of the WEC campaign.
Automobile Club de l’Ouest competition director Thierry Bouvet has previously explained that this is due to the unique characteristics of the 8.47-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, meaning there is not necessarily a direct link between the BoP for WEC’s blue-riband event and the rest of the calendar. 
#51 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi

#51 Ferrari AF Corse Ferrari 499P: Alessandro Pier Guidi, James Calado, Antonio Giovinazzi

Photo by: Rainier Ehrhardt

BoP is issued jointly by the FIA and ACO, who have introduced ‘power gain’ for 2024. This was due to debut in Imola, the campaign’s second round, after some manufacturers trialled it during pre-season testing, but no reason was given for a delay that extended through round three at Spa-Francorchamps.  
That means it debuted in Le Mans, where it adjusted the power below and above 155mph so that the acceleration and straightline speeds of the Hypercars were more closely matched. For the rest of the rounds though, the starting point will be 130mph because higher top speeds are usually achieved in Le Mans.
Although Ferrari eventually won the 2024 race, it was still one manufacturer to have been hit by power gain as its maximum power was reduced by 1.7%, approximately 11bhp, above 155mph. Lamborghini (1.6%) and Peugeot (0.7%) were the other two manufacturers to lose out under the component, while all of the other cars had a 0.9% power gain except for championship leaders Porsche who ran the same 685bhp maximum power above and below 155mph.
Porsche also gained 5kg in minimum weight, which was the contrast to Peugeot as it could take 18kg out of its RX8. That meant the French manufacturer no longer had the heaviest car in the category, as it was holding just a 5kg disadvantage to Porsche when it previously stood at 28kg.
Peugeot could also keep its maximum power of 681bhp while Toyota lost 9bhp but could also take out 9kg which was 1kg less than Ferrari.

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