Max Hofer got his debut season in the ADAC GT Masters off to a phenomenal start. When the young Austrian drove a Phoenix Racing Audi R8 LMS at Oschersleben in 2018, he was a relative unknown, having only contested two previous seasons in motor racing. And then this unknown quantity partnered by Philip Ellis - also a series newcomer - took pole position and won the race. As the season progressed, the duo showed further occasional flashes of brilliance but never again rose to such heights. But now the 20-year-old is back in the limelight. At Montaplast by Land-Motorsport, Hofer shared an Audi with former ADAC GT Masters champion Christopher Mies. In the course of the season, the duo made four podium appearances, the most recent of which came in the season finale at the Sachsenring (only the overall champions Kelvin van der Linde and Patric Niederhauser made more), and they finished fourth in the general classification. Hofer also won the coveted Pirelli Junior trophy for the best driver under the age of 25.
Not surprisingly, Hofer is delighted with the way his season went: "As I had only done two days of testing before Oschersleben, my expectations going into the season were relatively modest. I wanted to finish in the Top Five overall and the Top Three of the Pirelli Junior class. I have more than achieved that objective, so I am very satisfied. The whole season was much better than the first, even though we didn't win any of the races this time. But we were consistently among the front-runners, and we scored points on a regular basis. This is absolutely crucial in the ADAC GT Masters."
Like almost all other ADAC GT Masters contestants, Hofer began his career in karting: "In the past, I competed in some professional races with my father in RC cars and even had a go at the Austrian championship. At an RC car track there was also a kart track, and I was immediately captivated. My grandpa wanted to take me on a kart track, but my mother and grandma were against it. But then, in December 2009, I fell ill and my parents and grandparents promised me a kart as a bribe if I got well again. When they finally presented me with one, I wept for joy." It was his grandfather who turned Hofer into a Jochen Rindt fan: "My grandpa always raved about him, and that really made an impression on me. On our book shelf at home, there are a lot of books about Jochen Rindt. He was cool."
Hofer won the Austrian Kart Cup in 2010. Other karting titles followed before he made the step up to car racing in 2016. The Viennese teenager made it onto the podium in his debut season in the Audi Sport TT Cup and also finished in the Top Three in the 2017 ADAC TCR Germany.
At the end of his rookie year in the ADAC GT Masters, Hofer transferred to the outfit owned and managed by Wolfgang and Christian Land to challenge again in 2019. "I am very grateful to the team and also to Montaplast. Without Montaplast, I probably would not have raced this year. Unfortunately, without a budget, you have little chance of getting in anywhere."
In contrast to many other GT3 drivers, Hofer restricted himself entirely to the ADAC GT Masters this year. "Max did a really good job," says team-mate Christopher Mies. "Considering that he only competed on seven race weekends this year while some of our opponents were busy on 30, it is really impressive to see what he has accomplished, because track kilometres mean everything in this sport. I've been especially impressed by his qualifying performances. He has always delivered when it mattered."
Hofer himself picks out some of the highlights of his season: "Two P6 finishes in my home fixture at the Red Bull Ring - that was almost as good as two podiums for us, because this track is actually the toughest for the Audi. My strongest race was certainly on the Sunday at Zandvoort where we finished third after Christopher had held the lead up until the pit stop. I was really frustrated afterwards because I had given it everything I had got. I was the fastest driver on the track and only missed out on the win by the slender margin of 2.4 seconds. The finale at the Sachsenring was also fantastic: it was the only weekend on which we managed two podium finishes. After the disastrous Hockenheim weekend, it was enough to restore my lead in the Junior classification."
Hofer intends to build on these achievements in the coming season - preferably still as a member of the Montaplast by Land-Motorsport squad. Because his long-term ambition is to secure a contract as a works driver with a major manufacturer.