Lost amid the excitement of Ferrari’s comeback Le Mans 24-hour win was a very important car reveal from Toyota. The Japanese brand took the wraps off the ‘GR H2 Racing Concept’ ahead of the race and it could be the most important car the company makes in the next decade.
Why is it so important? Because the GR H2 is the latest attempt from the automotive giant to make carbon neutral hydrogen fuel a realistic alternative to petroleum and diesel. Toyota has invested millions already in trying to create a viable alternative fuel that could replace fossil fuels but the GR H2 is the biggest commitment yet.
Up until now Toyota has limited itself to domestic racing in Japan as a test bed for this new technology, but revealing a possible Le Mans entry is a massive step forward. While Toyota hasn’t locked in a plan to race the GR H2, the decision of Le Mans organisers, the ACO, to create a hydrogen class – which will be open to both hydrogen-fueled and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles – is a clear sign of where the two parties are headed.
Le Mans has long been a showcase for emerging automotive technologies, from disc brakes in the 1950s to more recently the use of performance diesel engines and now hybrid powertrains. Using hydrogen fuel, which can be generated from sea water is a potential game changer for the automotive industry as it would provide a carbon neutral alternative to electric vehicles, and one that could be quicker and more easily mass-adopted (as it could be a like-for-like replacement for petrol and diesel).
Toyota chairman (and creator of Gazoo Racing) Akio Toyoda said the ACO’s decision to allow a hydrogen-fueled class is a huge opportunity for Toyota to prove the viability of the technology, both in terms of its environmental credentials but also its emotional appeal.
“My congratulations to the ACO, and all involved, on the 100th anniversary of Le Mans,” Toyoda said. “Le Mans is a place where we not only compete in one of the world’s most celebrated races but a place where we can push the boundaries of technology – a place where we can realise the future. We are grateful to the ACO and Le Mans for providing this unique opportunity to share our efforts with the world.
“My goal is to achieve carbon neutrality in motorsports without sacrificing anything in terms of performance or excitement.
“We look forward to our new GR H2 race car in view of the new Le Mans H2 class in the future.
“The sound, the torque, the dynamics, it’s all there. Not only are we re-imagining the race car, we’re doing it with zero emissions. Here’s to the next 100 years of chequered flags!”
Whether Toyota switches its Hypercar program to the new hydrogen category for 2026 or runs a parallel program, the success or failure of such an entry could have a big impact on what’s fueling your road car in the decades to come.