Bill Okell was glad to be back behind the wheel of the Huffaker Engineering race team’s MG Midget at the Buttonwillow Raceway Park in Bakersfield, Calif. in February 2020. (Cali Photography)

Bill Okell was glad to be back behind the wheel of the Huffaker Engineering race team’s MG Midget at the Buttonwillow Raceway Park in Bakersfield, Calif. in February 2020. (Cali Photography)

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.

READ ALSO: Saanich race car driver nabs podium finish at first U.S. Majors race of the season

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.”

READ ALSO: Saanich driver races to Chairman’s Trophy in Mission

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 another weekend of GTU races in Mission, B.C. on Sept. 26 and 27 – 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
Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

devon.bidal@saanichnews.com

Auto racingCoronavirusSaanich

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A rolled-over car was spotted in a ditch along Sooke Road near the border of Langford on the morning of Sunday, Jan. 24. (Black Press Media photo)
Car ends up in ditch along Sooke Road Sunday morning

Single vehicle spotted rolled-over just after 10 a.m. on Jan. 24

Steve Smith’s image of two sibling adolescent grizzly bears playfighting in the Chilko River in the B.C. Interior earned him best of show at the prestigious Lion’s Gate Celebration of Nature club competition for 2020-21. (Photo by Steve Smith)
Victoria Camera Club captures top spot in prestigious nature and wildlife competition

Saanich Peninsula photographers part of award-winning team

Downtown Victoria and the Inner Harbour are part of a corridor that also includes much of urban Saanich that is part of the Greater Victoria 2030 District, a sustainable buildings climate initiative announced recently. (Black Press Media file photo)
Ramping up energy efficiency in Greater Victoria buildings goal of new group

Greater Victoria 2030 District part of North American network of cities working to reduce emissions

Oak Bay High Grade 10 students Oliver Wakely and Alex Joiner with the new scoreboard to soon be installed on the grass turf. Fundraising from the Oak Bay Barbarians rugby alumni and Oak Bay Fire Fighters Charitable Foundation. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
Oak Bay High alumni buy new scoreboard

Scoreboard to be installed on grass field

Terrance Josephson of the Princeton Posse, at left, and Tyson Conroy of the Summerland Steam clash during a Junior B hockey game at the Summerland Arena in the early spring of 2020. (John Arendt - Summerland Review)
QUIZ: How much do you know about hockey?

Test your knowledge of Canada’s national winter sport

Jennifer Cochrane, a Public Health Nurse with Prairie Mountain Health in Virden, administers the COVID-19 vaccine to Robert Farquhar with Westman Regional Laboratory, during the first day of immunizations at the Brandon COVID-19 vaccination supersite in Brandon, Man., on Monday, January 18, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tim Smith - POOL
Top doctor urges Canadians to keep up with COVID measures, even as vaccines roll out

More than 776,606 vaccines have been administered so far

From the left: Midway RCMP Csts. Jonathan Stermscheg and Chris Hansen, Public Servant Leanne Mclaren and Cpl. Phil Peters. Pictured in the front are Mclaren’s dog, Lincoln and Peters’ dog, Angel. Photo courtesy of BC RCMP
B.C. Mounties commended for bringing firewood to elderly woman

Cpl. Phil Peters said he and detachment members acted after the woman’s husband went to hospital

Dr. Jerome Leis and Dr. Lynfa Stroud are pictured at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto on Thursday, January 21, 2021.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
‘It wasn’t called COVID at the time:’ One year since Canada’s first COVID-19 case

The 56-year-old man was admitted to Toronto’s Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre

An Uber driver’s vehicle is seen after the company launched service, in Vancouver, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. Several taxi companies have lost a court bid to run Uber and Lyft off the road in British Columbia. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
Taxi companies lose court bid to quash Uber, Lyft approvals in British Columbia

Uber said in a statement that the ruling of the justice is clear and speaks for itself

Nanaimo Regional General Hospital. (News Bulletin file photo)
COVID-19 outbreak declared at Nanaimo hospital

Two staff members and one patient have tested positive, all on the same floor

A long-term care worker receives the Pfizer vaccine at a clinic in Nanaimo earlier this month. (Island Health photo)
All Island seniors in long-term care will be vaccinated by the end of this weekend

Immunization of high-risk population will continue over the next two months

A 75-year-old aircraft has been languishing in a parking lot on the campus of the University of the Fraser Valley, but will soon be moved to the B.C. Aviation Museum. (Paul Henderson/ Chilliwack Progress)
Vintage military aircraft moving from Chilliwack to new home at B.C. Aviation Museum

The challenging move to Vancouver Island will be documented by Discovery Channel film crews

A video posted to social media by Chilliwack resident Rob Iezzi shows a teenager getting kicked in the face after being approached by three suspects on Friday, Jan. 22, 2021. (YouTube/Rob i)
VIDEO: Security cameras capture ‘just one more assault’ near B.C. high school

Third high-school related assault captured by Chilliwack resident’s cameras since beginning of 2021

Most Read