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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Toyota concept validates Le Mans hydrogen push, says ACO

Toyota's hydrogen-powered prototype concept shows that the Automobile Club de l'Ouest's plans for the future of Le Mans "are in the right direction", according to its hydrogen consultant Bernard Niclot.

GR H2 Racing Concept

The Japanese manufacturer pulled the covers off its GR H2 Racing Concept at Le Mans on Friday during the ACO's annual press conference, with Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda set to complete a demonstration lap before the 24 Hours begins at 4pm local time today.

Toyota is the first manufacturer to formally lodge an interest in the ACO's hydrogen category, in which cars will be eligible to compete at the 24 Hours from 2026.

Its GRH2 has a hydrogen-powered engine, and follows the ACO's decision to open up the technical specifications from original plans to run a spec chassis powered by hydrogen fuel cells only.

Niclot has headed up a manufacturers working group since 2017 and fronted the ACO's partnership with GreenGT in the MissionH24 H24 hydrogen fuel cell racer that contested four Le Mans Cup races in 2022.

Speaking to Motorsport.com, Niclot said Toyota's support of the ACO's hydrogen vision was "a great step forward".

GR H2 Racing Concept

GR H2 Racing Concept

Photo by: Toyota Racing

"It’s a big step to see such a big company coming and supporting us," he said.

"We need such announcements, we need manufacturers obviously to support us and to come. If not, it would mean that we were in the wrong direction.

"Today, I am proud and happy because this confirms we are in the right direction and it is very important for the future."

Asked to explain the ACO's decision to increase technical freedom in the hydrogen class, Niclot explained: "It’s important that manufacturers can be sure that they have all the chance to win, to do the best job.

"And also, which was difficult with the common spine as we saw it initially, it’s difficult to have a car completely optimised around each technical solution of the manufacturers.

"That is ICE, a fuel cell, you have different types of fuel cell, different types of ICEs, and it’s impossible to optimise the car around each of these realisations.

"It’s important that they can really develop their car, optimising it around the technologies. The challenge for them is so big that we must let them have all the chance to do it, to achieve it.

"It’s a risk for everybody because it’s new. So each time you do something new you have a risk, and we have to give them all the cards to play."

Niclot added that he hopes Toyota's announcement will "create a momentum", stating only that "we are in talks with other manufacturers".

He said: "I hope that in the next months, years, there will be other such announcements."

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