The launch of the ACO’s planned hydrogen class at the 24 Hours of Le Mans has been delayed by one year to 2025 due to complications from the coronavirus pandemic.
ACO President Pierre Fillon explained that industry-wide delays and shortage of components have contributed to the reason to push back the category’s debut.
“COVID has made a lot of issues for the manufacturers,” Fillon said. “For us, we lost one year with the development of the H24. It would have run last year.
“We discussed with the manufacturers and it’s difficult today for them to have [parts] with the suppliers. There are a lot of delays. So we made the decision for 2025.”
The Mission H24 incubator, which is on-site this weekend for demo laps, is now set to compete in its first race next year, likely in Michelin Le Mans Cup as an unclassified entrant.
Fillon said the car is slated for demo laps in the final two European Le Mans Series rounds of the season at Spa-Francorchamps and Portimao, with plans for it to also contest a Free Practice session in the Le Mans Cup event in Portugal.
The second-generation H24 car has completed only about 500 kms due to delays amid the pandemic.
“We lost one year with COVID and the issues we had with a new supplier,” Fillon said. “It’s a very challenging car. It’s the first car with this technology in racing.
“We have to learn and we’ve learned a lot. You have the issue of the cooling of the fuel cell, you have the issue with the weight and the tires as it’s a new car. It’s [the weight] of a GT [car].
“You have the issue with the tank. To refuel a tank with hydrogen is not [easy].
“When you refuel the tank, between the beginning of the refueling and the end of the refueling, the gap of the temperature is 80 degrees [Celsius]. So you have to manage it.”
Fillon, who drives a Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel cell road car, said the target is to refuel with 12kg of hydrogen within 90 seconds.
This compares to his road car’s current capability of 6kg in six minutes.
Fillon Expects Hydrogen Class to Fight for Overall Win
The ACO President said the regulations in the class will technically allow a hydrogen-powered car to win overall at Le Mans although admitted it might be a tall order in the first year.
Eight manufacturers have been involved in the ACO’s technical working group meetings for the class, with Fillon targeting to have at least three OEMs on the grid in 2025.
“With the regulations, it will be possible [to win overall],” he said. “After that, they may need more time to [develop]. But on paper, yes.
“Remember the diesel. When Audi announced they would run in Le Mans with a diesel everyone said they were crazy. Two years after, they won.”