Hydrogen cars to be able to fight for outright Le Mans 24 Hours win

The new hydrogen fuel-cell prototypes due to be introduced at the 2025 Le Mans 24 Hours will be able to challenge for outright victory from the outset.

Hydrogen cars to be able to fight for outright Le Mans 24 Hours win

Race organiser the Automobile Club de l'Ouest has stated that the new category based on a one-make chassis jointly developed by Red Bull Advanced Technologies and ORECA has been devised to put the green machinery at the same level as the cars in the Hypercar class from its delayed introduction in 2025.

"With the regulations it will be possible on paper," said ACO president Pierre Fillon.

"After that you will have to discuss with the manufacturers.

"Maybe they will need one more year [to challenge]."

Fillon pointed to Audi winning on its Le Mans debut in 2006 with the R10 TDI turbodiesel LMP1 car as evidence that new technologies can be successful straightaway.

He revealed that there were eight manufacturers around the table discussing the rules for the hydrogen class.

"We are working with eight manufacturers and we plan to have three [in the first year]," said Fillon.

Manufacturers entering the hydrogen class will have to use a spec chassis and an electric powertrain developed by the Franco-Swiss GreenGT group, but will have freedom to develop the fuel-cell technology.

Fillon revealed that the COVID pandemic had resulted in the postponement of the introduction to the hydrogen class by one year.

Fillon explained this had caused delays on the joint-venture programme between the ACO and GreenGT to develop much of the technology for the class under the Mission H24 banner.

"COVID made a lot of issues for us and we lost one year of development with the H24 programme," he said.

"We discussed with the manufacturers and the supplier and we decided to set back the class."

H24 Hydrogen car

H24 Hydrogen car

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

Fillon revealed that a second iteration of GreenGT's test car had only completed 500km since it was first shown at Le Mans last year.

He said it was the plan for this car, which like its predecessor is based on an ADESS LMP3 chassis, to take part in free practice at the final two 2021 rounds of the Michelin-sponsored Le Mans Cup for LMP3 and GT3 cars.

The hope is that the car, which is lighter than its predecessor and has a revised powertrain and cooling, will be ready as early as September's Spa round of the ELMS support series.

Fillon said that if everything goes according to plan the car will begin racing on an invitational basis next year.

The original LMPH2G test car, which was launched in 2018, will undertake a demonstration lap ahead of the start of this weekend's Le Mans World Endurance Championship round in the hands of Stephane Richelmi.

He is one of three test drivers for the project along with Stoffel Vandoorne and Norman Nato.

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TotalEnergies, the fuel supplier for the WEC, is developing what was described as a fully-renewable bio-fuel for use in the series next year.

The fuel will be made out of agricultural waste, including from the wine industry.

FIA president Jean Todt said: “Endurance racing, by its nature, has always served as an excellent research and development platform and it is an important milestone to have the WEC to switch to 100% sustainable fuel.

"It is the FIA’s major goal to implement sustainable energy sources across its portfolio of motorsport disciplines, thus paving the way in the reduction of CO₂ emission, perfectly reflecting our race-to-road strategy."

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