Saanich-based driver Bill Okell awaited the start of a race in 2018. (Ralph Umayam/Cali Photo)

Saanich race car driver shifts gears as pandemic cuts U.S. season short

Bill Okell, 65, sets sights on Canadian racing circuit for 2020

The COVID-19 pandemic threw a tire iron into the 2020 auto racing season for 65-year-old race car driver, Bill Okell, but he changed gears and set his sights on Canadian races.

The Saanich-based driver had a successful 2019 season which included being inducted into the Victoria Auto Racing Hall of Fame, setting records at various U.S. racetracks and taking home new hardware for his trophy shelf.

Okell, who turns 66 in November, had planned on making waves at the 2020 Sports Car Club of America U.S. Majors Tour and had his sights set on the 2021 national championships in Indianapolis, but he’s been cut off from races in the U.S. since the border between Canada and the U.S. closed in March.

While he was disappointed, Okell adapted to “the new normal” and turned to the Canadian racing circuit – where he previously won six titles between 2006 and 2010.

The races and track culture are different in Canada but “racing is racing,” he said, adding that he’s happy to be back to cruising at top speed and spending time with friends. The pandemic “requires us to be flexible.”

Okell usually races in a 1964 MGB Roadster that he’s had for 45 years but this season he’s cruising the track in a Mazda Miata on loan from R&P Motorsports which gives the familiar track a fresh feel.

Okell had just two U.S. races under his belt before the borders closed so he signed up for the Confederation of Autosport Car Clubs Pacific Division Championships. After six of the season’s nine races at the Mission Raceway Park, Okell was sitting in first place as he headed into last weekend’s GTU races in Mission, B.C. – likely the final races of the shortened season.

Okell said he goes into each race planning to bring home a new trophy so he was looking forward to coming back to Saanich with fresh hardware to display on his dining room table for as long as his wife could tolerate.


@devonscarlett
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devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

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