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Chevrolet Corvette Team Hit with BoP Penalty for LeMans Qualifying

After leading the GTEPro field at the first practice session for the 2017 24 Hours of LeMans endurance race, the Chevrolet Corvette team has been penalized under the FIA Balance of Performance rule – effectively reducing the power potential of the C7R engine.

The 2017 running of the 24 Hours of LeMans takes place this weekend and last week, the teams all made their first official, timed runs of the event in the Classification Session, which is essentially a timed practice session. In that first track session, the #64 Chevrolet Corvette C7R was the quickest car in the production-based GTEPro class, but as a reward for being the quickest car in the class, the #64 Corvette has been slapped with a Balance of Performance adjustment which also impacts the #63 Corvette, which was 4th quickest in the Classification Session.

Corvette Balance of Performance Adjustments
The 24 Hours of LeMans is conducted under the guidelines of the FIA World Endurance Championship and within those guidelines is the Balance of Performance rule. Under this rule, series officials look at the results of a given racing session ahead of a race – in this case the LeMans Classification Session – and decide whether all of the cars are on a level playing field in terms of power. If they believe that one car or one type of car has an unfair advantage over the others within the class, those cars are required to downsize their engine air restrictor plate. The smaller restrictor plate opening leads to less power, thus slowing the car down.

After turning in the 1st and 4th quickest times at LeMans last week, the Corvette Racing teams have been required to reduce their engine air restrictor plate opening by 0.2mm. They ran those top times with a 29.7mm restrictor opening, but when they hit the track for qualifying later this week, they will be running a 29.5mm plate.

The good news is that when the Corvette C7R teams struggled at the 24 Hours of LeMans race last year, they were running 29.0mm plates, so right now, the Chevrolet teams in GTEPro should have more power at their disposal than they did last year.

Another Questionable BoP Penalty
Those of you who follow endurance racing likely recall that there were some stiff Balance of Performance adjustments handed out to the Corvette Racing teams at the 2016 running of LeMans. After the Corvette teams looked strong in practice while the Ford GT teams struggled, BoP requirements gave the Ford’s a massive advantage – leading to a dominating qualifying effort and a class win for the Blue Oval.

This year, the Corvettes are once again atop the class leaderboard while the Ford GTs are at the bottom, but for the 2017 qualifying round, the BoP adjustments are much less stiff. The Corvette teams will have a bit less power, but they will still have more airflow than they did for the race last year.

We will have to see how qualifying goes, but this year’s penalty to Corvette Racing – albeit smaller than last year – seems even more unnecessary. Although the #64 Corvette was the quickest in the GTEPro field, it was less than 2 tenths of a second quicker than the 2nd place Porsche while the #63 Corvette sat 4th, behind the top Corvette and a pair of Porsche 911s. The 2nd through 7th place cars in the GTEPro field were all within 1 second of the lead car while the 8th and 9th place cars were just over a second behind the #64 car.

On the other hand, the Ford GT teams were all terribly slow in the Classification Session, with the quickest Ford being almost 2 seconds slower than the lead Corvette. With the only cars failing to compete with the Corvette teams being all four Ford GT teams, it looks like the adjustments wouldn’t be necessary at all if the Ford’s were up to pace with the rest of the field.

Then again, that is why the Balance of Performance system exists – to keep slower cars competitive – and last year was a fine example of how the system works. Hopefully this year’s race is a bit more “organic” and with qualifying beginning on Wednesday, you can expect more coverage of the 2017 24 Hours of LeMans race as the event proceeds.

Image: Corvette Racing FB