With O'Neill competing for the ADAC Kart Masters title in the X30 Senior category in Wackersdorf and Esteban making his GT3 debut in the highly prestigious Blancpain GT Series in Barcelona, the Muth family was torn apart last week. But the German crown for the youngest and a more than convincing performance for the oldest turned this last weekend of September into an indelible memory for them all!
From a very young age, Esteban and O'Neill Muth have been used to being together on karting tracks. But as they gradually climbed the motorsport pyramid, the two brothers occasionally saw their paths take opposite directions. Last weekend, O'Neill was in Wackersdorf, Germany, while Esteban was at the Barcelona-Catalunya circuit.
An extremely promising GT3 debut for Esteban
For the older of the two, who distinguished himself at the end of July on his first appearance in the Japanese Formula 3 championship, this Spanish event was a voyage of discovery. “It was indeed my very first race in a GT3 car with around 500 bhp,” explains the 17-year-old from Brussels. “I had only had one day of testing in Great Britain with the Mercedes-AMG GT3 before arriving in Barcelona, but I felt confident. Physically and mentally, we have an ideal set-up with Strakka Racing and there was no reason why I should not be fully involved.”
From the first free practice sessions, Esteban showed that he had his place at this level by competing on an equal footing with his teammates, Romain Monti from France, winner in his class at the 2018 24 Hours of Spa, and Max Koebolt from the Netherlands, former European GT4 Champion. During qualifying, he was even stronger, setting the 14th fastest time in the third session (the 3rd position in the Silver Cup) out of 46 competitors, ahead of many top GT drivers.
“Taking the average time of the three drivers, we were 17th on the starting grid,” continues the Strakka Racing driver. “The race was extremely hectic and, during my stint, I had to avoid a collision in front of me. Despite that, I crossed the finish line in 9th place having been able to show very good pace at times, and I was among the fastest in my class. Unfortunately, while I was fighting for the podium in the Silver Cup, there was also a slight contretemps with another competitor when I passed him and we touched each other. I was penalised for the incident and we were finally ranked 19th. It was a little disappointing, but the team was nevertheless very happy with my performance.”
In any event, Esteban passed his graduation exam. André Lotterer's protégé has indeed impressed those who have seen him, both with his speed and with the maturity he shows despite his very young age. It is a very good omen for the future!
An impressive title win for O'Neill
In another corner of Europe, in Wackersdorf, O'Neill was competing in the final of the ADAC Kart Masters, the German Karting competition. After a complicated weekend in Kerpen, the 16-year-old arrived at this meeting in second place in the X30 Senior category, 11 points behind. But the start of the weekend was catastrophic. “We were performing well,” he insists. “But I was penalised in a qualifying heat which I won, because of an insecure front fairing resulting from an excursion over a kerb. I was then hit in another round.”
These setbacks pushed O'Neill down to 21st place on Saturday night after the qualifying heats. “I must admit that I really could not believe the title was still reachable,” admits the CV Performance team driver, which is the Junior Team of the HTP Motorsport team, very active in GT. “I had to make an almost miraculous comeback in the first race to retain a chance of a title.”
But the driver from Brussels is not the type to give up. He literally flew into battle with total commitment. Under the amazed eyes of the spectators, he overtook all his opponents one by one and posted several fastest laps, finally to take the lead just before the finish. “This race was like a dream,” he smiles. “My KR chassis was diabolically efficient, I was in my zone and I had the impression that nothing could stop me.”
On pole position for the second race, O'Neill took the lead from the start and never let go. “After being Belgian champion twice and winning a French Cup, I am now German champion!”
At the age of 16, O'Neill continues to demonstrate his talent and his uncompromising will to win. His very promising first season in Formula 4 last year allowed him to prove that he can shine in both single-seater and kart racing. “But the key to the door is always money,” he admits. “So I thank all those who support me and my brother, and those who help us to pursue our dreams. Thanks also to Dino Chiesa, the owner of the KR brand, for his technical support this season. Whenever an opportunity arises, as was the case this year with CV Performance, we will do our best to grasp it!”