BMW H2R shown in development. Photos: BMW

The only news in racing (as far as I’m concerned) is that this year Toyota, McLaren, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Ford are in talks to lay out a hypercar-looks/GT1-style class for Le Mans in 2020/2021. Now BMW is in on those talks, as reports. Hm.


My initial thought was “oh shit hey BMW has a bunch of carbon tub stuff hanging around from the i8 I bet they could just race that,” but the report focuses a bit more on the fuel of choice rather than the production vehicle on which any of this would be based:

BMW, outright winner of the Le Mans 24 Hours in 1999 [...], is making no commitment to a lower-cost category that will call for manufacturers to style their prototype machinery after hypercars, super-sportscar or show cars.

Marquardt said that the key factors for BMW in the discussion would be finding “the right balance between the three topics of road relevance, taking a pioneer’s role and keeping the costs in a reasonable frame”.

BMW has admitted its interest in racing hydrogen fuel cell technology and suggested that it should be possible to race a prototype at Le Mans powered by such a powerplant some time in the middle of the next decade.

BMW has some history with hydrogen race cars. The company built a single-seater record car in the early 2000s that burned hydrogen in a V12, counter to the normal process of just getting electricity out of it through a fuel cell. It was called the H2R and is pictured above and below.


This program (along with pretty much all of BMW’s other hydrogen work) dried up abruptly. The rumor I heard from people working in the California car regulations scene was that BMW was able to get emissions credits through the California Air Resources Board just for doing research into hydrogen, but once that program got axed, BMW dropped it and went in on hybrids and EVs.


But still, a hydrogen-powered BMW i8 race car or something would be neat.

BMW told that it has been “in the loop since the beginning,” but is only now formally joining the discussions of what this class should look like. It’s been a challenge getting good information out of the various manufacturers involved in these talks as even they don’t seem to have agreed to a clear vision of what this is all going to look like. Certainly some manufacturers want this to be very much like a restart of GT1, and I support them on that.


Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

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