Toyota’s hydrogen-fuelled LMP racer
FAST FUELLING MAY BE A SELLING POINT FOR A HYDROGEN-FUELLED FCEV, but as Formula E continues to show, the spectacle of racing is considerably diminished when you remove the sound of internal combustion engines. Toyota clearly thinks so because it used this year’s 100th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours to reveal the GR H2 Racing Concept, a hydrogen-engined hybrid car designed for the newly announced hydrogen class. ‘Le Mans is a place we can push boundaries and realise the future,’ said Akio Toyoda, president of Toyota. ‘My goal is to reach carbon neutrality without compromising the speed or excitement of racing.’
The Automobile Club de l’ouest (ACO) has created a hydrogen class for 2026 that will be open to both hydrogen-combustion and hydrogen-fuel-cell race cars and has said that it will use Balance of Performance rules to create a level playing field with the other LMP1 cars. Toyota revealed few details of its hydrogen-combustion concept beyond the fact that it will have a hydrogen-fuelled engine and a hybrid system, and that it is 5100mm long and 2050mm wide, which makes it both longer and wider than its current LMP1-H hybrid racer (4650mm long and 1900mm wide).
It won’t be Toyota’s first hydrogen-engined racer. Since 2021, it has entered a hydrogen-powered Corolla in Japan’s Super Taikyu endurance series. Two years ago, its gaseous hydrogen Corolla finished the Fuji 24 Hours and earlier this year a Corolla running on liquid hydrogen – a first in racing – also finished the same race. In the hands of five drivers, including Akio Toyoda and rally star Jari-matti Latvala, it completed 348 laps and was placed 47th out of 52 starters and sixth and last in the ‘ST-Q’ class for cars not conforming to any specific technical regulations. Toyota’s works effort in the 2023 Super Taikyu series also includes a GR86 running on carbon-neutral fuel.
Could these racers lead to hydrogen-combustion road cars? ‘We are about 50 per cent through the development path that is required to get to road car production. We don’t know if we’ll get there, but we are not giving up yet,’ said Toyota. ‘Considering the multitude of customer requirements and the environment across all markets, we prefer to keep a multi-tech approach open.’