Almost overlooked by the WRC 'heavyweights' doing battle in Belgium last week was the debut of a rather unique rally car, although not in competition - yet!
Toyota President Akio Toyoda drove the GR Yaris H2 in a demonstration run during Rally Belgium. This was the first time Toyota had shown an under-development hydrogen-engine vehicle on public roads outside Japan.
Joining President Toyoda as co-driver was Finnish rallying legend Juha Kankkunen, who won his fourth WRC title with Toyota in 1993. The GR Yaris H2 served as a test car on Special Stage 11 running ahead of the safety car along the nine mile stage.
After the run he said: “I am grateful to Juha for his courtesy in allowing me to drive. He guided me in sync with my driving, making me feel comfortable. The roads were tough - not only slippery but also narrow, and their surfaces seemed to change from moment to moment. They were like the roads used in Rally Japan, and it was a good chance to think about races with spectators in mind. We also had a (Toyota) Mirai (fuel cell electric vehicle) at the venue demonstrating external power supply, and I believe that, together with driving using a hydrogen engine, we were able to highlight in Europe the potential of hydrogen as an option for achieving carbon neutrality.”
His co-pilot Kankkunen added: “Akio’s driving was great. And the hydrogen engine put out solid torque, making it no different from a gasoline engine. Because they emit zero CO2, I believe hydrogen engines will become one of the options for achieving carbon neutrality not only in the world of motorsports but also in the world of everyday cars.”
This debut marked another yet another step forward in Toyota's motor sport alternative fuels development programme which is working towards wider applications in general everyday motoring.
Currently in Japan, Toyota has entered cars using three different fuel types in the 2022 ENEOS Super Taikyu motor racing series.
The ORC Rookie team is running the Toyota Corolla H2 Concept, which uses a hydrogen combustion engine, and a new Toyota GR86 CNF (carbon neutral fuel) concept in all seven championship rounds. From the next round in the series, a 24-hour race at Fuji Speedway in June, TOM’S SPIRIT will join the grid with a GR86 using a racing petrol engine for further CNF development purposes.
On a personal note, it is somewhat reassuring to know that somebody is looking out for the future of rallying in spite of the deafening silence from Paris and Bicester!