We’re on the brink of a very exciting time in sports car racing, with the likes of BMW, Ferrari, Porsche, and Audi joining prototype classes in the coming years. That’s in addition to smaller outfits like Scuderia Cameron Glickenhaus taking on those goliaths. But Glickenhaus being Glickenhaus, it couldn’t be satisfied showing up to Le Mans with a prototype looking, sounding and running like all the rest.
Come 2023, it “could” — emphasis on the “could” here — roll up with a version of its SGC 007 Hypercar with miniature Zeppelin-looking tanks on either side carrying cryogenic hydrogen, feeding an internal combustion engine. Or, at least, the team’s thinking about it, as evidenced by these recent Instagram posts.
I’m sure you have lots of questions, and I’m afraid I have no answers. Fortunately, Glickenhaus does.
First, you might be wondering “why?” According to Glickenhaus, a prototype running on cryogenic hydrogen “would have similar performance” to its competitors and run similar-length stints, “be a LOT greener” and refuel in half a minute. The constructor reckons such a car could be ready by 2023, which is when Ferrari, BMW and Porsche are planning to enter the fray.
The ACO — the governing body that organizes the 24 Hours of Le Mans — has been interested in creating a hydrogen class for the last several years. One car, developed by a company called GreenGT, was supposed to run Le Mans in 2013 as an experimental Garage 56 entry, though that didn’t pan out. But unlike the ACO’s plan, which revolves around hydrogen fuel cells and electric motors, Glickenhaus’ method involves hydrogen combustion.
That brings us to the second question that may be on your mind: “Is this safe?” Well, Glickenhaus assured several concerned Instagram commenters that cryogenic hydrogen isn’t explosive, and even if it was, the company will use “aviation military-grade tanks” like those on Predator drones on its car. (And those are built to withstand gunfire, apparently!) Because hydrogen burns almost invisibly, the tanks may have to be coated with a chemical that produces a color when vaporized.
Third, assuming all this passes the safety test, what havoc would it wreak on the car’s aerodynamic profile? Well, OK — Glickenhaus doesn’t have an answer for that one yet, promising only “we shall see.” Many asked why the team isn’t choosing hydrogen fuel cells instead, to which it responded that fuel cells would be too heavy for prototype endurance racing. Glickenhaus does expect to use them in its Baja trucks.
I really don’t know what to say in response to this, other than I hope it doesn’t kill anyone. Also those tanks look absolutely ridiculous, which goes without saying but I nevertheless had to acknowledge at some point before the end of this post. In fact, the render is so absurd that I actually double-checked the date to make extra sure time didn’t eat itself again and we weren’t in April.
Some will argue it doesn’t matter how good a race car looks if the tech works, but it’s hard to imagine two gigantic masses over the engine cover won’t disturb airflow and, by extension, performance. Hell, the ACO or FIA might just say it’s not even legal, or the whole thing could disappear into the ether and be completely forgotten a year from now. There’s no telling what will happen next, but I’m ready to see this wild idea through to the end either way.