Introducing: Raphael Rennhofer

Introducing: Raphael Rennhofer

Austrian teenager Raphael Rennhofer hasn’t taken long to show his potential on the biggest GT4 stage of them all, becoming a race winner on his maiden GT4 European Series Powered by RAFA Racing Club event.

Sharing a PROsport Racing Aston Martin Vantage GT4 with experienced driver and multiple GT4 Europe race winner Hugo Sasse in the Silver class, Rennhofer is learning fast. He enjoyed a successful karting career before stepping straight into GT4 Germany for a learning year last season, before moving into European competition.

He and Sasse were a standout entry for the season opener at Circuit Paul Ricard, winning the second race of the weekend, and they could have had a podium in the opener too had it not been for suspension failure. Also successful in eSports, Rennhofer will be one to watch across the remainder of this season. 

Where did your motorsport journey begin?
“For me it was a family thing. Both my dad [Martin] and grandfather [also called Martin] used to race. My grandfather was a racing instructor and my dad competed in Formula Ford for many years, so I knew from four or five years old that this is what I want to do… I had no choice really! When I sat in a kart for the first time when I was six, I felt at home. I started competing in Austria for the first few years racing at National level, the in 2020 we started international karting. I was a race winner in the Rotax Max Euro Trophy, where the level was really high.”

Then you moved straight into GT racing?
“Yeah, last year. It was quite a step up. I know my dad did single-seaters, but I wanted a different path. The goal for me is to become a professional driver with a manufacturer and the chances of achieving that are higher in GT racing than formula cars. Getting to Formula 1 realistically is incredibly hard for anybody, so this is a better career option for me.” 

You also do a lot of sim racing. Did that help?
“Definitely. I race professionally for Scherer Sport [formerly Phoenix Racing] in eSports and a contact I had there put me in touch with PROsport. Doing the sim racing absolutely is a big help. For tracks like Circuit Paul Ricard and Misano – places I’ve never been before – you can learn the layouts way before and get into a rhythm with it. It’s not 100% the same, but you can train your brain and get ahead before you go out on track for real. I have a pretty good sim rig setup at home and I do a lot of practice on that. We won the digital NLS, so the Nürburgring Langstrecken Series on the Nordschleife, and also the online 24 Hours Series title too in a Porsche Cup car. It took up a lot of my time across the winter and helped me get ready for this season.” 

How did you adapt to the real-life Aston Martin Vantage?
“It was a challenge, but one I love. Getting used to the weight of the car is a big thing, and how it affects the handling and feel, this is something you don’t get in karting. Also learning about the tyres. In karting you have sprint races that are 10 minutes long and don’t have to look after tyres, but here you need to manage the tyres, especially across the first half of a race to make sure the car is good for your team-mate for the second half.”

You made your GT debut in GT4 Germany last season, and then straight into the GT4 European Series this year…
“It was always the plan. Last year was always going to be a big learning experience for my first time in a race car, let alone a GT4 car. I learned a lot and learned quickly and the best way to keep learning was to come here with 50 cars and the level being so high. It’s the best series in GT4 you can go to.” 

And to be a winner on your maiden GT4 European Series weekend!
“That was amazing. And quite unexpected actually. In race one we had the suspension break, which was a real low as we could have started the season on the podium. But race two felt really, really good. It was an amazing weekend and we got to show what we can do early on.”

How is it working with a team-mate like Hugo?
“It’s amazing to work with a driver like him because he has so much experience and is very, very fast. He’s a two-time GT4 champion so knows how to get the best from these cars. We talk a lot and work really well together, so I’m learning a lot from him. He’s already taught me some big things, not that I’ll share them here though…”

What’s the aim for the rest of the season?
“To simply do the best job we can and to always aim to be the best Aston Martin out there. If we do our job as a team and drivers then I think we have all of the ingredients to be fighting for big points at every round, and if we can be in the championship picture come the end of the season that would be amazing.”