Toyota drops further hints it wants hydrogen WRC future

World renowned journalist Jim Holder learns more about Toyota’s WRC future from this week’s Le Mans 24-hour race


Toyota has dropped further hints that it wants the World Rally Championship to switch to a hydrogen-engined formula in future.

After revealing on Friday that it will race a hydrogen-engined prototype at the 2026 Le Mans 24 Hours, paving the way for the race to feature only hydrogen-powered cars from 2030, DirtFish quizzed a company spokesman on its desire to use the same technology in the World Rally Championship.

“We believe it’s an interesting possibility,” he said, without elaborating.

A hydrogen-engined GR Yaris H2 ICE was demonstrated at the Ypres Rally last year, driven by the company’s then CEO Akio Toyoda under his racing pseudonym Morizo, with four-time world champion Juha Kankkunen in the co-driver’s seat.


After the event Toyoda told DirtFish he believed hydrogen would underpin the future of the WRC, saying: “This is good for the environment, good fun to drive; this is why we should do these kind of solutions.”

Talking more about hydrogen’s future on Friday, Toyoda added: “Le Mans is a place we can push boundaries and realize the future. My goal is to reach carbon neutrality without compromising the speed or excitement of racing.

“I wouldn’t invest in this technology if I didn’t think we could win with it.

“Hydrogen is not just about zero emissions but a truly exciting technology: it delivers sound, torque and dynamics. It is all of these things. For carbon neutrality we will pursue every technology, from battery electric power onwards; hydrogen is just one path we are taking.”

While few technical details of the Le Mans racer – currently called the Toyota GR H2 Racing Concept – were revealed, the company’s decision to promote combustion-engined hydrogen technology is driven by its belief that it best suits motorsport applications, particularly because of the engine sound, and because it has potential for road car use.

While rivals have prioritised development of battery electric road cars, Toyota has long pioneered hydrogen as a zero CO2 fuel source, including selling the Toyota Mirai road fuel cell car as well as developing several heavy duty uses for the powertrain. However, in recent years it has stepped up its development of hydrogen-powered engine technology, especially for use in motorsport.

This includes competing in the Super Taikyu Series in Japan using a hydrogen-engined Toyota Corolla since 2021. It has also used the car in super endurance racing in Thailand, and earlier this year finished the Fuji 24 Hours with the car.

In a statement regarding its race program, Toyota said it had been “honing its technologies in the harsh environment of motorsports and, with like-minded partners in and outside the automotive industry, accelerating its efforts for producing, transporting, and using hydrogen toward the realization of a carbon- neutral society. Toyota intends to further advance such efforts for making ever-better motorsports-bred cars using a hydrogen-engine Corolla.”

The use of hydrogen engines in motorsport is intrinsically linked to its potential in road cars; as such, the likelihood of major championships such as the WRC adopting it as a fuel source is likely to be closely linked to whether it can be commercialized.

“We are about 50% through the development path that is required to get to road car production; we don’t know if we’ll get there, but we are not giving up yet,” said a Toyota spokesman.

“Considering the multitude of customer requirements and the environment across all markets where Toyota sells cars, we prefer to keep a multi-tech approach open.”

Toyota has demonstrated hydrogen-engined versions of the GR Yaris, GR Corolla and Corolla Cross previously. To date, the Corolla has been raced on track by star names including outgoing Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda under his Morizo nickname and former World Rally Championship star and current WRC team principal Jari-Matti Latvala.

The Toyota GR H2 Racing Concept will be developed into a full-blown race car in a collaboration between Toyota’s research facility in Higashi Fuji and Toyota Gazoo Racing Europe in Cologne, which runs the teams current race cars.

Current WRC technical regulations will run until the end of 2026. The FIA is currently engaged in ongoing debate with three options: hydrogen, e-fuel and full electric.

Words:Jim Holder