Ex-Formula One racing driver Julian Bailey (aka The Stig) on his perfect Surrey weekend

Ex-Formula One racing driver Julian Bailey has changed track from racing and Top Gear to the pub game in Shere. Motor racing is still a real family affair, though, so weekends are often high-octane

Originally published in Surrey Life magazine May 2010


Since the Formula Two season kicked off at Silverstone in April, my weekends have become pretty erratic – split between home in Effingham and wherever around the world Jack Clarke, my stepson, is competing. He is racing in the FIA Formula Two series this season and is really committed – he eats, sleeps and breathes it.

So, if we possibly can, we go as a family – my wife, Deborah, with our children Daniel and Mariella – and give him our support. When you think only 26 drivers ever make it through to the Formula One season at any time, it’s incredibly competitive. It reminds me of the old days, too.

I first moved down to Surrey in 1988, when I signed to Ken Tyrrell’s team that was based over in East Horsley. It’s been a great environment for the kids to grow up in – we lived in Cobham first of all, then over in West Clandon and now we’re in Effingham.

We are lucky enough to have quite a bit of land with our barn conversion, so I love to start the weekend by feeding the ducks on the lake and taking a look out at London – on a clear day the view is absolutely perfect.

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I then head out with our dogs, Lottie the labrador and Rossi who is a super fast Alsatian – we named him after Valentino Rossi, the MotoGP rider, but I’m not sure how keen he’ll be to know that!

If I can coerce the kids into it, I really like to take off behind Polesden Lacey, near Dorking, and hike right the way down to Westhumble. It’s quite a long way so I have to keep in mind the thought of a pint at The Stepping Stones at the other end – and a lift back – to keep going.

On Saturday nights, Deborah and I are often out researching the local restaurant competition, which is pretty strong in Surrey, or we will head up to our own pub, The William Bray in Shere, for my favourite glass of Fleurie and supper.

Everyone told me I was mad when I took on the old Prince of Wales in Shere last year, but I’ve always loved a good bar. 

Horses for courses I guess pubs are in the blood, as my brother Adrian has The Running Mare in Cobham. It’s been hard work, but a lot of fun and I actually feel very proud of what we have achieved. We gutted the place, redesigned it, renamed it – after the local Lord of the Manor, William Bray – and found a great chef in Mark Routledge.

Weekends get very busy; my daughter Mariella pitches in and is turning into an enthusiastic waitress, so it’s usually ‘family hold-back’ on the Sunday lunches. If it is a weekend we are all here in Surrey, though, Deborah likes to get the whole family together and cook a big meal for us all.

It’s usually around the table that we start plotting events up at The Bray. We had a lot of fun in December, blanketing it in fake snow and raising some funds for the Cherry Trees charity in Clandon, and then, of course, we got the real stuff!

Eddie Jordan and his band have also been down a few times to play and those nights were really popular. He is keen to come back in the summer when we can do something a bit bigger, so watch this space...

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