Hydrogen and rallies: world WRC test in Belgium
Using hydrogen instead of petrol on rally circuits. This was the surprise of the Belgian leg of the World Rally Championship – of which Pirelli has been the sole tyre supplier since 2021 – when four-times Finnish world champion Juha Kankkunen opened the race course in a Toyota GR Yaris H2. The car has a heat engine, not a fuel cell, specifically a three-cylinder 1.6 turbo G16E-GTS powered by hydrogen instead of petrol. It fitted P Zero Trofeo R tyres. These high-performance tyres designed for track and road use were perfect for showcasing the full potential of this low-emission vehicle.
THE INTERNATIONAL DEBUT
It was the first time that the car was seen out of Japan on the roads of a motorsport competition. The event was celebrated with the presence of Toyota President Akio Toyoda at the wheel alongside co-driver Kankkunen. The 15-kilometre course was a test on the extremely narrow Belgian country roads through fields and near houses and considered challenging even by professional championship drivers. It was the first step towards carbon neutrality in the industry, showing that there is more than just electric power as an alternative to reducing emissions into the environment.
“BLACK, ROUND AND PIRELLI...”
The former Finnish champion, who won his 23rd and last WRC race in Finland in 1999, was asked which tyres he was using. “Black, round and Pirelli...” was his simple answer. He added that Toyoda's driving skills “were fantastic” and that “the hydrogen engine provided a lot of torque making it very similar to a conventional petrol engine”.