Making BoP changes
Racecar Engineering|February 2021
Not guess work, but an engineering problem that follows the scientific method. Here’s how
SCOTT RAYMOND

In the last article on Balance of Performance (BoP) in RE V30N11 we explored two key concepts: the physics of vehicle performance, and the options available for making changes to the balance of performance.

In this article we will examine the actual process of making BoP changes. It is important to keep in mind that the challenge of balancing disparate vehicles is an engineering physics problem, and the potential solutions can usually only be drawn from the list of available parameters to change.

But how can we know if a change in performance is required, or which vehicle parameter to modify to affect this change?

Despite what many pundits may believe, the process of making BoP changes is not black magic, nor based on a random number generator, it is truly an engineering problem that follows the scientific method. It begins by asking a question and ends by forming a conclusion.

With the BoP process, we must ask the following question prior to each event: ‘Will the expected performance of all vehicles competing at the upcoming event be balanced?’ The conclusion formed following each event is either; ‘yes, the performance of all vehicles competing at the event was balanced,’ or ‘no, the performance of all vehicles competing at the event was not balanced.’ Sometimes, it might even be ‘the expected performance of all vehicles was not demonstrated, so I have no idea if the vehicles were balanced or not!’

Between these initial and final steps, the remaining phases of the scientific method are followed, which include conducting research, forming a hypothesis, performing an experiment, collecting data and analysing and reviewing that data with the objective of forming a conclusion. Once the conclusion is drawn, the final step of the process involves generating a report to communicate the findings of data analyses and provide factual evidence supporting the conclusion.

I want you to think about the experiment phase of the Balance of Performance process as a race event. With each BoP change made (and those not made) prior to a race, an evaluation of the success or failure of the change is formulated based on the performance of the vehicles in the practice, qualifying and race sessions. Put it into your mind now that the BoP process can be simplified down to first asking a question, then racing, and finally forming a conclusion.

As with all implementations of the scientific method, the Balance of Performance process is a continual cycle. With each passing event, vehicle test or new vehicle appraisal, the cycle repeats itself, with the knowledge gained from the past contributing to the assessment of the next event. The BoP process is, or at least should be, in a constant state of improvement where more useful, accurate and comprehensive models and methods are developed with each iteration of the cycle.

Now let us look at each step in the process in detail as it relates to the scientific method.

Step 1: The question

‘Will the expected performance of all vehicles competing at the upcoming event be balanced?’

First, take note of the word expected. We can go down several rabbit holes trying to explain what we mean by that. I use this term to place an emphasis on the fact that we must always deal with variables when conducting the BoP process. Typically, these variables are beyond your control, such as weather conditions, a car crashing, sustained damage inhibiting a vehicle’s performance or the recruitment of a driver into a team’s line up for whom you have no previous data.

I also want to emphasise expected as a reminder that performance demonstrated by a manufacturer / team / car / driver is the sum total of what they choose to demonstrate. Yes, I am referring to sandbagging and performance management, a topic we have discussed previously at length. When the demonstrated performance does not match the expected performance, either your expectations are wrong, or the only conclusion that can be made is inconclusive.

Next, let’s talk about the phrase all vehicles. The objective is that every single car is competitive but, in truth, many cars simply do not have a chance. Whether this is related to driver talent, engineering skill or team execution, these factors can be lumped in with those beyond your control. So, all vehicles should better be clarified as ‘the best representatives of each manufacturer vehicle model’. Because we are in a situation where cars representing various manufacturer brands are competing against each other, it is better to think about each brand as a unit that is measured against the other brands competing.

Finally, upcoming event. During a racing season, the next event on the schedule is obviously the upcoming event. However, this becomes less clear cut when we talk about the first race event for a group of vehicles, such as the 2016 IMSA Daytona 24h, which saw the introduction of all new, never before raced GTE models in the GTLM class, and new-to-series GT3 models in the GTD class. The BoP process is quite different here when dealing with a group of unknown vehicles, so it is important to distinguish between racing unknown quantities vs racing known quantities.

The last note on upcoming event is that the event takes place in the future, and so the BoP process is very much about predicting the future!

Step 2: Research

The research phase of the BoP process involves collecting as much information and knowledge as necessary to form the best possible prediction (hypothesis) of the expected future performance of each vehicle type competing at the upcoming event.

Here, different methods are used when dealing with unknown quantities vs known quantities. When all vehicles are unknown, or when a new vehicle model shows up, the research is much more involved and often requires a series of separate experiments to quantify certain parameters of each vehicle’s performance envelope. One must learn before making a prediction.

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