Osborne: Allan Simonsen Award more significant than GT4 title
Joe Osborne believes winning this year’s Allan Simonsen Award means more to him than claiming the British GT4 title.
Established in 2013 following the Danish star’s untimely death at Le Mans, the prize is awarded annually to a driver whose speed, spirit and attitude most embody those of Simonsen. Following a stellar season Osborne was unanimously chosen by British GT’s judging panel to become the ASA’s fifth recipient.
But as well as being British GT’s most prestigious standalone prize, it is also an immensely personal one for Osborne who became firm friends with Simonsen during his early career before witnessing that fateful day at Le Mans first-hand in June 2013.
It’s that connection that makes winning 2017’s edition so significant for Tolman Motorsport’s Pro driver.
“This is a really personal award for me because I considered Allan a friend,” confirmed Osborne. “I used to live with his brother Benny when we worked together at Bedford Aerodrome and Allan would come and stay from time to time. I was just starting out in racing but Allan was always very honest and pushed me to better myself. Then, when I joined British GT, he continued to offer advice and became something of a hero of mine in the paddock.
“So it’s nice to be recognised as having the same qualities as Allan. I don’t think I’ve been much quicker than previous seasons but one thing that has changed is my attitude towards racing and maybe how I present myself. I guess that didn’t go unnoticed. Of course winning the GT4 championship would have been nice, but I genuinely would have swapped it for the Allan Simonsen Award. I feel incredibly honoured to have won it.”
Having competed in the championship’s GT3 class for several seasons, Osborne made the bold decision to re-join the GT4 ranks at the start of 2017 as Tolman’s professional alongside David Pattison.
While reliability issues and bad luck prevented the crew from claiming an outright GT4 victory, Osborne’s speed aboard the McLaren was never in doubt, while Pattison also attributed his personal improvement to his Pro’s tuition. The stealth grey 570S was frequently the fastest car on track once Osborne climbed aboard, and his charging stints became a regular fixture throughout the campaign.
Two pole positions and fastest laps – the latter also earning him GT4’s Sunoco Fastest Driver of the Year Award – along with three Pro/Am wins, the same number of overall class podiums and second in GT4's final Pro/Am standings undoubtedly proved Osborne’s credentials.
Tolman boss Chris Tolman collected the trophy on Osborne’s behalf during SRO’s annual prize-giving ceremony in Paris last Friday. Given its significance, British GT organisers do not notify the winner in advance, meaning the 28-year-old – who was unable to attend in person – only realised he’d won when the news broke on Twitter.
“I was gutted to miss it, and would have loved to be there in person but, honestly, there’s a good chance I’d have cried if I had been!” he added. “It really would have been that emotional for me to pick up an award with Allan’s name on it.”
Osborne is the first GT4 driver to win the award since its inception in 2013. He joins an illustrious list featuring Le Mans winners Nick Tandy and Jonny Adam, BMW Motorsport factory star Alexander Sims, and British GT3’s Sunoco Fastest Driver of the Year, Phil Keen.