Toyota GR H2 Racing Concept: hydrogen powered racer heading for Le Mans | CAR Magazine

Toyota GR H2 Racing Concept: hydrogen powered racer heading for Le Mans

Published: 16 June 2023 Updated: 16 June 2023

►Hydrogen-engine Le Mans concept 
Will compete is new H2 class in 2026 
Zero emissions without compromise? 

Among all the other hoopla at the 2023 Le Mans 24 Hours race, Toyota Gazoo Racing whipped the covers off this funky-looking piece of aerodynamic art: the Toyota GR H2 Racing Concept. 

Yes, that’s H2 as in hydrogen. And it previews a plan to go burning gas – or more likely liquid hydrogen – at Le Mans 2026, now that race organisers the ACO have confirmed hydrogen engines will be allowed to complete alongside fuel-cell vehicles in the forthcoming hydrogen category. 

TOYOTA HYDROGEN RACER

Wait. The Toyota GR H2 uses hydrogen in a combustion engine? 

So it seems. Some brands haven’t quite declared the death of this particular donkey. Toyota has, in fact, been racing a hydrogen-burning (if that’s the right phrase) Corolla in Japan’s Super Taikyu series since 2021, and also demoed a hydrogen-powered GR Yaris in late 2022. Both efforts to outline the potential of liquid hydrogen as a fuel. 

For the Le Mans effort, the hydrogen power will be combined with a hybrid system, as all other top-flight Le Mans racers have done for years. Still a handy bit of messaging for Toyota, as the king of the hybrid pioneers. 

What else do we know about the GR H2 Racing Concept? 

Nothing more than we can discern from the pictures, really. Which show an endurance racer with all the expected aero cues – honking great fin, raised front spoiler, seemingly super-long wheelbase – and a rather fetching H2 paint job. 

Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda was on hand for the reveal and is clearly very enthusiastic about the project. ‘My goal,’ he said ‘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.’ 

As for why a hydrogen engine, Akio explains: ‘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 checkered flags!’ 

What about safety? 

Always the airship-shaped elephant on fire when discussing hydrogen fuel, we’re sure every possible precaution will be taken to prevent any Hindenburg-style incidents – though in referencing the hydrogen Corolla, Toyota strangely didn’t remind anyone that it caught fire in testing earlier this year when vibration loosened a piping joint in the engine bay. 

A similar kind of incident could have happened to any racing car, of course. And on the plus side, the hydrogen leak sensors detected the problem quickly enough to prevent the fire spreading to the cabin. We imagine the final version of the GR H2 has some pretty big hoops to jump through yet before it’s allowed into competition proper. 

By CJ Hubbard

Head of the Bauer Digital Automotive Hub and former Associate Editor of CAR. Road tester, organiser, reporter and professional enthusiast, putting the driver first

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