Toyota's hydrogen-powered GR Corolla H2 recently went the distance at the Super Taikyu Fuji 24 Hours, completing 358 laps and making history as the world's first car to race using liquid hydrogen fuel.
The car was driven by Toyota chairman Akio Toyoda, alongside Super GT race winner Hiroaki Ishirua, Yasuhiro Ogawa and Finnish rally driver Jari-Matti Latvala - who previously competed for Toyota's Gazoo racing division in the World Rally Championship.
When the flag dropped, the Corolla came home in 47th place out of 52 starters, or sixth and last in the 'ST-Q' class for cars not conforming to any particular regulations.
Though Toyota had previously experimented with gaseous hydrogen technology in its racing cars, the carmaker decided to make the switch to liquid hydrogen-powered racers after 2021 to gain a competitive edge.
Liquid hydrogen allows for much faster pitstops than before, as the car can be refuelled in the same pit area as a petrol-powered car. It also holds an advantage over gaseous hydrogen as it doesn't need the compressors and pre-coolers required to cool hydrogen gas.
Toyota also reduced the weight of the Corolla by 50kg over the last two months, resulting in the car lapping quicker than the previous iteration of the racer, which was powered by gaseous hydrogen fuel.
Toyota developed the Corolla's powertrain with Kyoto University, the University of Tokyo and Waseda University lending expertise during the car's development phase.
The Corolla was originally intended to debut at the opening round of the Super Taikyu season in Suzuka, but a testing fire led to the manufacturer withdrawing the car before it could set a proper lap time.
Toyota is taking hydrogen development in motorsport very seriously - at the Super Taikyu race, Toyota Motor Corporation President Koji Sato met with Pierre Fillon, president of Le Mans organiser Automobile Club de l'Ouest, to discuss the development of a carbon-neutral category in the Le Mans 24 Hours.
The category is part of a plan to introduce hydrogen power into the top level of motorsport. This could be achieved with the implementation of a fuel cell system or with adapted combustion engines, as seen in the GR Corolla H2.
Organisers of Le Mans share Toyota's vision - with Fillon stating his target for a hydrogen-only class competing at the very top of Le Mans by 2030. "At Le Mans it's important that we allow manufacturers to test different technologies: it has been the case for 100 years and we want to continue to do that," he said.
"The idea is to introduce a H2 category progressively after 2026, and the idea in 2030 to have 100 per cent of the top category with hydrogen."
Toyota responded positively to the news - with Sato stating: "Today's announcement is a very significant one, and we are very positive about it."
Toyota is yet to announce its plans for future participation in Le Mans. "We're not ready to make any specific announcements of our own today, but I hope that in the near future we can make a good announcement with smiles on our faces," said Sato.
According to completecar.ie