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MARCH 1, 1989

Julian Bailey


Julian Bailey had a rough time in 1988. It began well with the opportunity to become a Tyrrell Formula 1 driver. He took it but the car was not very good and by the end of the year Bailey was looking for work. Getting a drive in F1 was going to be tough. And then along came Nissan with an offer for sportscar racing.

'Julio' has given up his plans to return to Formula 1 -- far from it. The fire still burns. During the Jerez test last week Julian turned up out of the blue. What on earth was he doing there?

"I've been in Canada on a three-day snowmobile race. I've got my overalls and helmet with me," he explained. Then pausing for thought he added, "Well, I would have if the airline hadn't lost them!

"I really enjoyed driving the Tyrrell and I really enjoyed Formula 1. That is why I am here. I want to get back.

"Last year I pushed Ken hard and had some backing and I was prepared to put some of my own money up. I lost a lot, but I am going to make it back in Group C.

"I think Ken would agree that if Michele Alboreto hadn't been available, I would still be at Tyrrell.

"Last year was probably the steepest learning curve I have ever hit in terms of having to pick up so much so quickly. It was a bit harder than I thought, but not too hard.

"I don't think I'm out of Formula 1 because I am not good enough. It was just circumstances. Now I have got to try to rearrange them so I can get back in again. That may mean coming to every F1 race this year with my helmet and overalls but, if that is what it is going to take, that is probably what I am going to do. F1 is the place you have to be, so if anything comes up I'll take it.

But would he take anything? Even the worst car in the pre-qualifying?

"Anything," he said. "In the position I am in, I cannot lose. It can only do me good. Someone is going to take it, so why shouldn't it be me? You have to be in it to move up and I'd be learning all the time, getting more experience.

"And you never know. All you need is one good result to be noticed. I never got bad press last year. I was never actually condemned; no-one said I was driving badly; everyone realised the problems I had. I think that F1 hasn't yet been able to make a valuation of my potential. I didn't have a chance.

"Obviously I think I'm good, all racing drivers do, but it is a case of beingin the right place at the right time to prove it. Jonathan Palmer is underrated. Having worked with him at Tyrrell, I rate him much higher than I did before. There's no doubt that he is one of the top 10 Grand Prix drivers in the world. Some might disagree, but he's in the same situation as me. It's been hard to quantify him up to now. This year we will see him up against Michele Alboreto. I think that can only look good for me. I came into Formula 1 up against Jonathan, who had done 70-whatever Grands Prix and I didn't look stupid."

It's all vintage Bailey. Firing from the hip, down-to-earth and saying what's on his mind. He's confident enough to make fun of himself. There is no need to surround himself with people to pander to his ego or to treat him with kid gloves. With Julian you can always say what you think.

If the Formula 1 doors have all-but closed on him for this year, he still has Group C. Does he feel it is a step down from Grand Prix racing?

"No," he explained. "I'd say it was a sideways step. Group C is going to come into line with F1 in the future, and in 1991 it is one car-one driver and 3.5 litre engines. I think its going to be very close to F1.

"I think F3000 would be a step down. Formula 1 is where I would ideally like to be, but it is not an ideal world, is it? The only way of doing that is keep going and hopefully it will come up. Ideally I'd like to drive for one of the top teams but right now that's not realistic. I want to win in Group C. Who knows? Nissan might do F1 in the future? Well, you never know, do you?" he added with a smile.

"Anyway I am going to be around the Grand Prix scene. I'll be testing in Formula 1, I can't say who it will be with, but I will certainly be doing some miles. I'll be available should there be any opening. Someone might get Legionnaires Disease again! You just never know."

"The Nissan programme doesn't affect Formula 1 because the races don't clash Nissan understand that I might undertake a Formula 1 programme alongside that which would be ideal because that would keep me busy, and I prefer to be busy."

There will certainly be plenty to do with Nissan. He will lead a team which is effectively new to Group C.

"I was contacted by Lola, which is building the Nissan chassis, and asked if I would contemplate doing any testing," he explained. "I went back and said 'Yeah, but I'd prefer to race'. I heard that Nissan is coming in on a very serious level, to win. That suits me. So I wanted to be involved in the whole programme.

"When I say it suits me, it's a money-no-object, let's go out and win policy, with plenty of testing. It's going to be an interesting exercise for me to work directly with a manufacturer of Nissan's stature

"Nissan has made a long term commitment for motorsport. It makes me a feel a lot more at ease. I am not borrowing money to drive, skimping and mucking about like I have done. It makes a big difference. This is my 12th year in motorsport and it is the first time it has happened to me.

"I don't know too much about the competition in Group C. But I'm not really worried. We are going to go out and do the best we can. I don't think that experience is a problem. You can't get any harder than Formula 1. I'm not saying that Group C is easier, but I can't see it being any harder.

"Anyway," he smiled. "I think if you are quick, you can be quick in anything. They've all got four tyres and a steering wheel..."