Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda has explicitly stated his hope that the World Rally Championship will switch to a hydrogen-fuelled engine formula in future, DirtFish can exclusively reveal.
Championship organizers are said to be debating whether to continue with the current formula – albeit potentially increasing the amount of electrical power used by the hybrid system in conjunction with a combustion engine – switching to fully synthetic fuels from the current biofuel mix, going fully electric via a battery or hydrogen fuel cell or allowing the combustion of hydrogen.
However, talking to DirtFish at Le Mans, where he committed to Toyota contesting a new class for hydrogen-powered hypercars from 2026 and drove a hydrogen-combusting Toyota Corolla race car for a demonstration lap, Toyoda said: “For motorsport the sound is one of the elements that creates excitement.
“On a race circuit, with lots of cars lapping round the same place, maybe you don’t need to focus so much on this noise element, but in the World Rally Championship, where you are left waiting in the fields or forests for a long time to watch each car, I cannot imagine suddenly seeing dust, snow or sand rising but having a silent vehicle approaching you.
“So I believe that in the rallying environment, this noise is very important for motorsports people; it is part of what makes the fans enjoy motorsports. It’s not noise, but sound. I know it is not the same for everyone, but for me it is like a lullaby.”
Although Toyoda did not comment specifically on the subject, despite its dominance in the hybrid road car market, Toyota is said to be unhappy at running a spec hybrid system in the WRC, while other manufacturers have also privately questioned the cost of the system for the performance difference it makes.
Synthetic fuel is hugely expensive and currently requires huge amounts of energy to produce, impacting its environmental credentials. Fully electric cars are near silent, heavy, expensive and potentially range restricted.
Hydrogen powertrains are expensive and – at present – lack road relevance; there are no road cars on sale that combust hydrogen presently, while only Toyota, Hyundai and Honda currently sell – near silent – hydrogen fuel cell production cars.
Last year Toyoda demonstrated a hydrogen-fuelled, combustion-engined GR Yaris H2 ICE car in Ypres under his racing pseudonym Morizo, with four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen in the co-driver’s seat. He believes that his personal involvement helped reassure authorities that the technology under development is safe.
“When we first proposed to run a hydrogen car there were a lot of questions asked of the team,” said Toyoda.
“They were worried it would be dangerous, but when they asked who would drive, and were told it would be me, they said we could go ahead. I think there was a significance to it being me driving, showing that I believed that the technology is safe.”