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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Le Mans wants hydrogen-only top class by 2030

Le Mans 24 Hours organiser the Automobile Club de l’Ouest has outlined a vision for all cars competing for overall victory to be hydrogen-powered by 2030.

MissionH24 LMPH2G

ACO president Pierre Fillon stated an intent to progressively introduce the new fuel at the centrepiece round of the World Endurance Championship between 2026 and the start of the next decade ahead of this weekend’s Fuji 24 Hours in which Toyota is competing with a hydrogen-powered Corolla.

The road map he laid down included two key announcements about the new class for hydrogen-powered prototypes, which the ACO has been planning since 2018.

The introduction of a category, which is intended to create machinery capable of winning overall from the outset, has been pushed back by a year for a second time and is now set for a 2026 debut.

He also confirmed that combustion-engined cars using hydrogen will be allowed to compete along the zero-emissions fuel cell machinery for which the class was originally envisaged.

“In 2026, we will have a hydrogen category at Le Mans at the same level as Hypercar,” said Fillon.

“At Le Mans it's important that we allow manufacturers to test different technologies: it has been the case for 100 years and we want to continue to do that.

“The idea is to introduce H2 category progressively after 2026, and the idea in 2030 to have 100% of the top category with hydrogen.”

Insight: How close is widespread adoption of hydrogen in motorsport?

Fillon has talked openly since last year about a desire to increase the remit of the hydrogen class to incorporate internal combustion engines and not just fuel cells, which create electricity via the chemical reaction between hydrogen and oxygen.

“The fuel cell was initially chosen for its potential, which is still relevant,” he said at Fuji on Saturday.

MissionH24 car running on hydrogen fuel cells has competed at Le Mans in supporting Le Mans Cup event

MissionH24 car running on hydrogen fuel cells has competed at Le Mans in supporting Le Mans Cup event

Photo by: JEP / Motorsport Images

“Today, the hydrogen internal combustion engine is also presented as a possibility for manufacturers.

“We are officially announcing that both technologies, fuel cell and hydrogen internal combustion engine, will be accepted and authorised for manufacturers wishing to enter the 24 Hours in the hydrogen category.”

He added that the Balance of Performance would be used to create a level playing field between the different technologies in use in the hydrogen class and Hypercar from 2026.

There was no comment on whether the hydrogen category will remain a one-make chassis formula.

The original intent was that manufacturers taking part would only produce the fuel cell of the car.

The one-make chassis was announced as a joint-venture between Red Bull Advanced Technology and French constructor ORECA, while the Franco-Swiss GreenGT organisation would supply the electric motors.

Koji Sato, president of reigning WEC champion Toyota, reacted enthusiastically to the announcement from the ACO.

“Today’s announcement is a very significant one, and we are very positive about it,” he said.

“We’re not ready to make any specific announcements of our own today, but I hope that in the near future we can make a good announcement with smiles on our faces.”

Toyota has been fielding Corolla H2 concept since 2021

Toyota has been fielding Corolla H2 concept since 2021

Photo by: TOYOTA GAZOO Racing

Toyota has been racing a car known as the Corolla H2 Concept since 2021.

A new version of the car introduced for this year is the first to run with the fuel stored in liquid rather than gaseous form.

The ACO has also been experimenting with hydrogen power in fuel cell form. It launched its MissionH24 initiative in 2018 together with GreenGT.

Two versions of a fuel cell prototype have been built by H24 based on an ADESS LMP3 chassis.

The initial iteration of the car, known as the LMPH2G, first appeared in a practice session for the Michelin-sponsored Le Mans Cup on the bill of the ACO-run European Le Mans Series in 2019.

The race programme of the second car, simply called the H24, took in the Road to Le Mans support event at last year’s 24 Hours.

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