TCR Talk Explains: The Balance of Performance & Compensation Weight

TCR Competition has used the Balance of Performance to good effect in its various Regional and Domestic series around the world and in its fifth year of action, continues to do so. Straight away I can hear sighs from most of you regarding those two descriptions in the title:

Balance of Performance & Compensation Weight…

Fear not! I’m going to explain these two processes for you all to help you understand better how and why they are applied.

A level field of Competition…

Something that has become commonplace in touring car racing for several decades has been an element of trying to keep the field of cars on a level performance basis (or as close as possible) so that the racing is kept exciting and no one driver or team races off into the distance.

BoP is designed to achieve this goal because, after years of seeing manufacturer teams dominate in touring car championships (and other forms of motorsport) for what is normally three to four-year programmes, they then leave a series and this can often have an effect of reduced entries or a championship closing down completely.

The Process itself is simple to follow:

Official TCR Balance of Performance Testing…

This normally takes place during February with the venue of Valencia in Spain used for the last few years. One test driver is appointed to drive each TCR car that has been officially homologated for competition. (This simply means that the car meets the regulations its built for and is cleared for racing in a TCR sanctioned series).

With all of the cars being driven by the same driver and exposed to the same tests, this means that the data gained from each car is then used to determine if any of these cars hold an advantage.

If this is the case, there are four options that the organisers use to try and equalise the performance of each car:

Weight.
Ride Height.
Turbo Boost.
Engine power: 95% to 102.5% via ECU control

Both WSC Ltd (who own the TCR Concept and Regulations) and the FIA will then publish an initial list of the weight, ride height and level of boost each car is allowed to run to from the start of each season.

This can often include reductions for some cars and increases for others depending on the data from the initial test.

Any series that is running before the Official BoP is announced will normally run to the previously published edition of BoP.

Now, it’s important to remember that both Compensation Weight and BoP are both separate entities and ways of levelling out the field in a TCR regulated series. So what are they?

Balance of Performance

Once a season is underway, you’ll often find that there can be one or more teams that are able to get their cars into the sweet spot so that they can work best with the varying track conditions and the drivers required setup.

These teams will often lead from the front taking several wins and this can lead to one or more model of TCR dominating over the rest in the series. So part of Balance of Performance is making sure that all things remain equal.

On the opposite side of this, cars which are not as successful gain an increase in the required elements as well, to allow them to remain competitive and keep things as close as possible.

Therefore a reduction or increase in the following elements of the car will often be applied to the model:

Reduction/Increase in Turbo Boost
Reduction/Increase in Engine Power
Reduction/Increase in Ride Height
Reduction/Increase in Weight in 10-kilogram increments.

This is one way of closing up the field and reducing any advantage that one model can have over other models in the field but remember one important fact:

BoP applies to each model globally. This means that regardless of how each driver and team are performing, this is applied to them. Let’s take an example from last year: The Hyundai i30 N TCR.

Arguably the best TCR car out there last year, teams such as BRC Racing and M Racing YMR were the dominant force in WTCR. So with their pace and experience with the cars, this means that they often had reductions in Turbo Boost / Engine Power, increases in Ride Height as well as an increase in Compensation Weight to 60kgs.

Then take Essex and Kent Motorsport, running Lewis Kent in the TCR UK Touring Car Championship. Despite this being his first season of TCR Competition, Lewis also had to run with these restrictions as well because they applied to the model globally.

Not easy for a driver who is learning the trade from scratch whilst more experienced teams and drivers extract the maximum out of the car on the World stage.

Whilst this is the case, this often means that in other series one model won’t be as successful as it is elsewhere, but this is all part of the game in TCR. An even field is the aim and often this is achieved, despite the experience of the teams and drivers taking part.

Compensation Weight…

This measure is quite simple to understand. As the many drivers and teams race in TCR series around the world, often one team will be in front because, quite simply, they have found the best setup in the car that gets it working nicely in almost all conditions.

The various levels of Compensation Weight are measured in kilograms:

10kgs
20kgs
30kgs
40kgs
50kgs
60kgs – Maximum Compensation Weight.

Let’s take an example to understand this better: The Hyundai teams in the 2018 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR).

Last season, they were the cars to beat and often spent most of the year laden with full Compensation Weight. This means that despite any restrictions impressed upon the cars by BoP (will come to that later), the drivers were still able to dominate from the front.

So as a backup to BoP, Compensation weight is then brought in as a second measure to even out an advantage that a particular car has. This measure sees which cars are half a second or more slower than the fastest car and then takes a certain amount of weight off them. The purpose is to keep the cars as close as possible.

This data is normally taken from the two fastest lap times of each qualifying/race session of each model of TCR car during a race weekend. This data will then be used to determine if a car requires more weight or less weight to remain competitive.

The Hyundai’s ran on 60kgs Compensation Weight for almost all of the season last year, with a slight drop in weight during the Asian leg of the calendar. As is often the case, this can see an improvement in the car’s pace, so weight was added back on by the time they reached Macau.

So the next question is: How often is this applied?

Frequency of Change…

So the frequency of how often Compensation Weight and Balance of Performance changes can be updated depends on the series that using these systems.

In the FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR), they accrue data from the first three weekends of action before this is then analysed. So for last season, the rounds at Morocco, Hungary and Germany were all run to other BOP/Compensation Weights determined by the initial TCR tests taken at Valencia last year.

For rounds four, five and six at Zandvoort, changes to BoP and Compensation Weight were put into effect. WTCR then looks back at the last three rolling race weekends for any future changes to be made. This saw the Hyundai’s affected and also the Audi’s make their way forward on the grid.

The TCR Europe Touring Car Series last year decided to use a different system. Because they had fourteen races over seven race weekends, they decided to implement the BoP/Compensation Weight data in 50% increments. The idea is that this keeps the cars as close as possible once again with a slightly different system.

Credit: ACI Sport / TCR Italy Series

Domestic TCR Series will also use their own system based on the data. TCR UK for example stuck with the rolling three-race weekend idea similar to WTCR, meaning that the WestCoast Racing Volkswagen Golf GTi TCR’s of Daniel Lloyd, Andreas Backman and Jessica Backman were all running at maximum Compensation Weight.

This was due to Lloyd’s dominant performance in the car. Taking into account that the races were of a thirty-minute duration and that tyre wear was a factor, this required the team to set the cars up with a competitive setup that was also a compromise of making sure that the car carried the weight well as well as giving the best performance possible.

Other series would apply the same BoP/Compensation Weight as they see fit, whether this was on a weekend by weekend basis or updating this based on any changes made by the TCR Technical updates. They also take into account the results of each driver as well.

The End Result…

Credit: Gruppe C Photography

So whilst there can be different methods of applying BoP/Compensation Weight, this all has the same effect: Good close fast racing between drivers and teams of varying levels of experience, giving a great show to the fans.

Ok, there are some TCR Series out there that from time to time will see a domain team or driver at the front often. However, keep in mind that they are often the ones with the best equipment, team personnel, driver etc and that they are putting them to good use.

Not every driver will thrive in every level of competition. A Driver who is fast in a National TCR Series could suffer more in a Regional Series like TCR Europe or TCR Asia, or worse still, really struggle in a series like WTCR. Everyone is doing their best with what they have.

BoP/Compensation Weight plays its part in all of this and often in most series you’ll see different winners over a race weekend or even different drivers setting fastest laps and taking pole positions.

Remember: Variety is the Spice of Life and in this case, also the Spice of TCR!

Credit: STCC Media

I will be keeping things up to date on here as well as in The Official TCR Talk Group & The TCR UK Fans Group where members will also be sharing their thoughts and any news from The 2019 FIA World Touring Car Cup (WTCR), The 2019 TCR Europe Touring Car Series, The 2019 TCR UK Touring Car Championship and other Domestic & Regional TCR Series from around the world.

All images are used in this blog are courtesy of BRSCC / TCR UK Touring Car Championship & WSC Ltd / TCR Europe unless otherwise credited.

Until next time, all the best!

Phil!!!

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