Motorbase Performance driver Sam Osborne will adopt ‘77’ as his race number for the upcoming Kwik Fit British Touring Car Championship season, as part of a poignant tribute to late VW Cup racing driver Tom Walker – through which mental health awareness will be the central message.
Osborne, who embarks on his fourth BTCC campaign this year, has run with a number 77 decal as part of his car’s livery in memory of Walker for the past few years. Now, the 28-year-old will actually run 77 as his race entry number on his Ford Focus ST.
Motorbase team owner Pete Osborne, Sam’s father, sponsored Walker in the VW Cup before the talented driver tragically took his own life on New Year’s Eve in 2018. At the end of last year, Osborne Snr asked Tom’s father, David Walker, if he would be happy for Sam to race with No.77 in memory, to which he gave his full blessing.
As importantly as wanting to deliver a heartfelt memorial to Tom’s memory, the Osbornes and the Motorbase team as a whole will also be striving to raise awareness of the seriousness of mental health and the promotion of the wide variety of support networks which are available to those who may be suffering.
Pete Osborne – Motorbase Performance Team Owner and Team Principal:
“I met Tom in 2017 and instantly loved his attitude and approach to life and racing. Shortly afterwards I became a sponsor in the VW Cup and watched his progress closely, Tom had a very promising future and was always a really well-liked guy.
“From the outside everything looked to be going well for Tom but, incredibly sadly on New Year’s Eve 2018, Tom took his own life – a total shock and tragedy. Since then I have been very close to Tom’s father, David, and we have become very good friends.
“To keep Tom’s memory alive, VW Cup/TCR had a memorial race in his memory and my own son Sam competed in it. This race has become really close to my heart. Since then David and I have often chatted about Sam adopting number 77 in memory of Tom and this year I am really proud Sam will be changing his number in the BTCC to 77.
“This whole situation brings to light the struggles of modern life and no matter how good someone looks on the outside, or how well their life seems to be, you never know what someone could be personally struggling with.
“It is so important people have the opportunity to share how they are feeling with others and not to be scared to open up about mental health. I’m really looking forward to seeing the 77 on track with Sam in the BTCC this year and I’m sure we will do Tom and his family proud.”
Sam Osborne – Motorbase Performance Driver:
“Dad and I have spoken about me changing my number in honour of Tom for a while now, when I competed in the VW Cup/TCR race it really brought home to me that we needed to do more in the memory of Tom and also help highlight mental health to anyone else that might be struggling.
“It also highlights the point mental health doesn’t discriminate and can affect anyone from any walk of life. In bringing the number 77 back to racing in memory of Tom we are hopeful this will help people understand they are not alone in their struggles, and there is always help available. I can’t wait to get out on the track this year and do Tom and his family proud with the 77 on my car.”
For anyone currently struggling with mental health difficulties, or any concerned families and friends, there are a number of organisations and charities which provide support and guidance, including the following:
www.mind.org.uk – The Mental Health Charity
www.rethink.org – Rethink Mental Illness
www.mentalhealth.org.uk – Mental Health Foundation
www.youngminds.org.uk – Young Minds, Mental Health Charity for Children and Young People
www.manup.how – MANUP? Men’s Mental Health
www.nhs.uk/mental-health/ – NHS Mental Health
www.samaritans.org – Emotional support with a 24/7 helpline