Saanich-based driver Bill Okell (7) in action at the U.S. Auto Club track in Fontana, California earlier this season. He’s competing in his third Sports Car Club of America national championship next month in Sonoma, California. Cali Photo

When I’m 64? Bill Okell is still racing sports cars

Saanich driver is heading to his third SCCA national championships

Bill Okell doesn’t see age as a deterrent to get out there and do what he loves.

The Saanich-based race driver, now 64, figures as long as his doctor tells him his reflexes, hand-eye co-ordination and strength are better than the average person his age, he’s good to keep racing sports cars.

While he didn’t race as much this year as last – more a factor of economics than physical limitations – when he did get out on the track he made the most of his opportunities. His season finishes at qualifying events earned him a third trip to the Sports Car Club of America national championships, being held for 2018 at Sears Point in Sonoma, California Oct. 15 to 21.

RELATED: Victoria-area driver posts second-best sports car nationals finish

His best results came at California’s Button Willow Raceway in April, when he set a new track lap record in the GT Lites category and placed first in his division. The experience restored his faith in his own abilities, he said, and reminded him to trust his Huffaker Engineering teammates to set up the red No. 7 Austin Healey Sprite right and advise him on how best to tackle the course.

“I don’t run tracks as fast as other guys,” Okell said. “But this was one of those weekends where I was applying new principles and strategies for things like cornering and acceleration. I had to trust that my mind was wrong and the car was right.”

At the nationals he’ll run both the F Production class and in GT Lites, with the same car, but with weight added in the latter category.

Bill Okell (7) of Saanich races at Button Willow Raceway earlier this season. He set the track lap record in the GT Lites category there in May. Cali Photo

While last season was very successful for Okell, winning an SCCA Western Conference Championship title and posting several solid finishes along the way, it was a rather expensive one to run given the number of events he and the team attended. Adding to the cost was travelling to the 2017 nationals, held at venerable Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he placed 12th in GT Lites and 22nd in F Production, after being hampered by transmission problems.

The decision was made to contest just enough races to record the three finishes required to qualify for the 2018 nationals. That objective was almost missed, when a race-ending crash on the Saturday at Sears Point in July left him one start short. The team managed to get the car going enough to start the Sunday race and achieve the qualification.

Okell, who also raced his own MG Midget on a few occasions this season, will get tuned up for the nationals with a trip to Mission Raceway Park this weekend, driving a friend’s Honda. He hopes to build some momentum there before returning to Sears Point, an opportunity he said allows him to keep doing what he loves.

“I’m 64 years old and I’m just blessed to be able to continue to do this and to be connected with such professional people, whether it’s people that help me out locally or the Huffaker team.”

editor@vicnews.com

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