We extend happy birthday wishes to former F1 drivers Julian Bailey (49 today) and Vicenzo Sospiri (44 today), who are celebrating their respective birthdays!
British-born and Spanish-raised, Bailey rose through the Formula Ford ranks, winning the all-important British Formula Ford Festival at Brands Hatch before moving into Formula 3.
Often strapped for finances, he somehow managed to convince backers to propel him into Formula 3000, and he became the first British driver to win a race in the series on just his third attempt.
Ken Tyrrell was sufficiently impressed as to sign the youngster for the 1988 F1 season, but Julian had to bring funding to the party, mortgaging himself up to his eyeballs for the opportunity.
Sadly, the Tyrrell 017 was a beast, and poor Julian sometimes failed to qualify and certainly never threatened the points’ positions. Dropped at season’s end, he joined Nissan’s sports car squad for two seasons, before returning to F1 with Lotus in 1991.
His first points’ finish came with sixth place at the wet-dry San Marino Grand Prix, but he DNQ’d at the following race in Monaco and his funds had run dry.
After F1, Bailey continued to be involved in touring and sports car racing, and was rumoured to be one of the drivers playing the role of ‘The Stig’ in Top Gear.
The 1987 World Karting Champion, Italian-born Vincenzo Sospiri worked his way up the motorsport championships, and eventually won the 1995 Formula 3000 title after several seasons trying.
A test driver with Simtek and Benetton, Sospiri’s F1 break – so he thought! – came with the MasterCard Lola squad in 1997. Sadly for poor Vincenzo, his F1 debut would last just two days after both he and team-mate Ricardo Rosset missed the 107% qualifying cut for the Australian Grand Prix, lapping over 10 seconds slower than the pacesetting Williams cars.
The project was en embarrassment and Lola closed down its F1 operation before the next round in Brazil, and Sospiri never graced the F1 stage again.
Sospiri competed in the IRL and ChampCar series before moving onto sports cars, where he won back-to-back Sports Racing World Cup titles in 1998-9.
Sospiri retired from all forms of motor racing and now manages the Euronova team in the Auto GP championship.
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