Le Mans with a Hydrogen Engine?! In France, Akio Shares His Vision for Motorsports


As the 24 Hours of Le Mans celebrates its 100th anniversary, Chairman Akio Toyoda was there to unveil a new hydrogen-engine race car that would one day compete in the legendary race.

This year’s 24 Hours of Le Mans ran over the weekend of June 10 and 11. A day earlier, on Friday June 9, President Pierre Fillon of ACO, the race organizer, held a press conference.

President Fillon announced that a veiled “mystery Toyota car” was on display at the circuit. He then welcomed the guest who would solve that mystery, inviting Chairman Toyoda to the stage.

“I would be happy to solve the mystery for you!” Akio remarked as he took up the mic.

Photo by Noriaki Mitsuhashi / N-RAK PHOTO AGENCY

What he revealed was a new hydrogen-engine race car that would one day compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Akio’s vision is to achieve carbon neutrality without sacrificing the sounds and the dynamism of motorsport. Below, we share the full text of his speech at the world-renowned, historic Le Mans.

Chairman Akio Toyoda

I would be happy to solve the mystery for you!

But before I do that, let me take a moment, to congratulate you on the 100 th anniversary of Le Mans!

What an amazing achievement to both create… and sustain… this legendary event, at the highest level for so many years!

There is no race car driver in the world, past or present …who hasn’t dreamed of winning Le Mans… including… yours truly.

Le Mans is a very special place for Toyota…

a place where we not only compete in one of the world’s most celebrated races…but a place where we can push the boundaries of technology… a place… where we can realize the future.

Ladies and Gentlemen, introducing… our GR Hydrogen concept race car for WEC!

Not only are we re-imagining the race car, we’re doing it with zero emissions.

Of course, one of the other major benefits of hydrogen fuel over gas, is just how light it is… less BoP which, as we all know…is one of the biggest advantages you can have in racing.

In fact, two weeks ago I drove a Corolla fueled by liquid hydrogen at the Super TEC 24 hours race at Fuji Speedway.

This was a world first for a race car…and not only did we successfully finish the race… we learned a lot.

Personally, my goal is to achieve carbon neutrality in motorsports…without sacrificing anything in terms of performance or excitement.

And by the way, we wouldn’t be investing in this technology if I didn’t think we could win with it!

I mean, I do have my priorities, after all!

I really want to encourage our competitors to consider hydrogen…not just because it’s good for the environment, but because it’s truly an exciting option.

The sound, the torque, the dynamics… it’s all there.

In the end, when it comes to carbon neutrality and motorsports, we believe in pursuing every option…

from battery electric vehicles and beyond…and that’s why at Toyota, hydrogen… is just one… of the many paths that we are taking.

We are grateful to the ACO and Le Mans to provide this unique opportunity to share our efforts with the world…

and we look forward to our new GR H2 race car in view of the new Le Mans H2 class in the future.

So again, thank you.

This is, indeed, a special day for Toyota, and an even more meaningful one for Le Mans.

Congratulations… and here’s to the next 100 years of checkered flags!

Thank you very much.

Midway through the speech, Akio mentioned BoP or Balance of Performance. In racing, this refers to adjustments in vehicle performance to ensure a level playing field.

Just before the 24 Hours of Le Mans on May 31, race organizers unexpectedly announced new BoP adjustments, saddling Toyota with an additional 37 kg. The extra weight would slow the car by more than one second per lap. (Ferrari +24 kg, Cadillac +11 kg, Porsche +3 kg, Peugeot +0 kg)

The announcement came after the team had already embarked from Toyota’s facilities in preparation for the race, leaving no chance to respond. Such was the context of Akio’s “less BoP” comment, which drew sympathetic laughs from the audience.

Photo by Noriaki Mitsuhashi / N-RAK PHOTO AGENCY

This year’s Le Mans saw Toyota battling against rival manufacturers from Europe and the U.S. A fierce duel with Ferrari ended with TOYOTA GAZOO Racing in second place, narrowly missing out on the hoped-for sixth straight victory. Thank you to everyone who cheered on the team!