Karl Kainhofer and Roger Penske score the first of many victories together, this one at Marlboro MD, in 1959.
There isn’t much Karl Kainhofer hasn’t done in over 50 years of involvement in motorsports, from motorcycle racing in Austria to being Porsche’s man in the USA, to his involvement in virtually every facet of Penske Racing. Born just before the Second World War in Vienna, Austria, Kainhofer became involved in motorcycle racing both as a mechanic and as a participant. Later joining Porsche in Stuttgart, he became heavily committed to Porsche’s racing program. Given the choice of emigrating to whatever country he wanted to further Porsche motorsport, he chose the United States and settled in Pennsylvania. He worked for many racers, most notably, Harry Blanchard but, after Harry was killed in an Argentinean race, he became a freelance mechanic. One of his customers was Roger Penske and Karl soon became more closely associated with him, tuning Roger’s Porsches and other cars. Later, he took on the duties of maintaining a Lola T70 car along with Roger’s new driver, Mark Donohue. That association with Donohue lasted through the Can-Am days, but also on into the Penske Indy effort. From there, Kainhofer was in on the building of the first Penske F1 car, the Penske PC1, in the Penske headquarters in Poole, England. By this time, Kainhofer and Donohue were inseparable, not only as colleagues but as friends. After Donohue’s death, Kainhofer took on the duties of the Penske Indy car engine effort but he attended fewer races, a result of his growing fatigue with race days. Today, he lives in Pennsylvania enjoying his retirement and attending reunions and serving on panels to discuss the racing history in which he played such a pivotal role. John Wright recently spoke with Kainhofer about his fascinating career.
So, Karl tell me about your life before you came to the USA so many years ago.
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