Introduction of a category for hydrogen-powered race cars at the Le Mans 24 Hours is being delayed a year to 2027, says Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. Fillon cited hurdles created by safety concerns as the reason for the postponement.
“2026 is not realistic, it’s (now) 2027” Fillon said of the mooted Hydrogen category, which is set to be introduced ahead of a targeted hydrogen-only top class at Le Mans for 2030. “Because we have to spend some time working on the safety, it has taken longer than we expected. 2027 is more realistic.”
Fillon emphasized that the ACO-led MissionH24 electric-hydrogen prototype, which is expected to begin track testing in early 2025, should be considered separately from the Le Mans hydrogen program.
“H24 is not for Le Mans. H24 is for the Michelin Le Mans Cup, ELMS maybe, but the target performance for H24 is GT3, not more,” Fillon said. “We are not a manufacturer. The car is just a laboratory to learn what we have to do in terms of safety and refueling. We have learned a lot with this car.”
With Le Mans 2027 less than four years away, however, it remains unclear how much interest there is for the new Hydrogen category. Back in June, Toyota expressed a clear intention to race a hydrogen-combustion prototype when it took the wraps off the GR H2 Racing Concept (pictured above) at Le Mans.
This followed an announcement in May from the ACO which confirmed that vehicles with a hydrogen combustion engine will be eligible, in addition to the hydrogen fuel cell electric vehicles that were already confirmed to enter.
The GR H2 Racing Concept is powered by a hydrogen combustion engine, rather than a hydrogen fuel cell, designed with the intention of competing in the new hydrogen category.
Hyundai is also known to be looking at sporting options to run parallel with its hydrogen roadmap for consumer vehicles. Beyond that, though, with the current hybrid-powered LMH and LMDh rulesets booming, it remains to be seen if there is enough interest and incentive for manufacturers to sign up to a hydrogen-powered future at Le Mans to match the proposed timeline.