The much-anticipated arrival of the hydrogen-powered class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans, initially slated for 2026, has hit a roadblock yet again.
ACO President Pierre Fillon, speaking during the final race of the FIA World Endurance Championship season in Bahrain, disclosed that the debut has been rescheduled to 2027. The primary reason behind this delay revolves around safety considerations, marking the second time the introduction has been postponed.
Originally intended for 2025, the debut was initially pushed to 2026 due to the challenges posed by the global COVID-19 pandemic. However, Fillon, a Frenchman, has now emphasized that even the revised 2026 timeline is not feasible. “2027 is more realistic because we have to spend more time on safety, and it takes longer than we expected,” Fillon explained to reporters.
The recent unveiling of the third hydrogen-powered prototype by ACO adds a layer of complexity to the situation. This unnamed prototype, as per Fillon, will not compete in Garage 56 at Le Mans. Instead, it will participate in the Michelin Le Mans Cup and potentially in the European Le Mans Series, signifying a shift in strategy.
“The performance target of the H24 is the same as GT3, no more,” Fillon clarified regarding the prototype. “We are not a manufacturer. It’s not our goal. This car is simply a laboratory to know better what we need to do in terms of safety, in terms of refueling. We’re learning a lot from this car.”
The decision to delay the hydrogen class aligns with a cautious approach, recognizing the intricacies involved in integrating hydrogen technology into competitive racing. Safety, a paramount concern in motorsports, takes precedence as organizers aim to navigate the uncharted waters of hydrogen-powered endurance racing.
Interest from major players in the automotive industry, such as Toyota with its GR20 H2 Racing Concept, indicates the growing enthusiasm for hydrogen-powered prototypes. Rumors circulating about BMW and Hyundai’s involvement in the technical working group of the ACO further underline the industry’s commitment to exploring and advancing hydrogen technologies.