Greater Victoria driver Bill Okell, driving an Austin Healey and leading Craig Carter in the orange Nissan and John Bower in the white one, heads around a banked turn at Button Willow Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. in April. Okell went on to win the race and set a track record, and later qualified for this fall’s Sports Car Club of America national championships at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. CaliPhoto

Greater Victoria driver Bill Okell, driving an Austin Healey and leading Craig Carter in the orange Nissan and John Bower in the white one, heads around a banked turn at Button Willow Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. in April. Okell went on to win the race and set a track record, and later qualified for this fall’s Sports Car Club of America national championships at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. CaliPhoto

Brickyard beckons to veteran Greater Victoria driver

Bill Okell heading to Indianopolis for sports car national championships

It may not have started out as a bucket list item for Bill Okell, but racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway will rank right there with his career racing accomplishments.

The 62-year-old driver is gearing up to compete at the Sports Car Club of America’s national championships, also known as “the runoffs,” being held this fall for the first time at The Brickyard. Okell will drive the same black Austin Healey he piloted to the SCCA Western Conference title driving for car owner Joe Huffaker.

“I think it’s one of those things … you set goals in your life, [but] for me this wasn’t on my radar,” Okell said. “We were gearing up to race [the nationals] at Sears Point [California] next year, but when they said Indy, I said, ‘I really want to see if we can make this happen.’”

The Saanich resident will drive in two classes at Indianapolis, F Production and GTL. With this year’s runoffs attracting record registrations, both classes will likely have between 40 and 60 drivers competing, he said.

The course combines the oval and a road course, giving drivers a 2.592-mile circuit with 15 turns. Each race is 19 laps, or roughly 40 minutes.

Okell admitted he won’t be the youngest competitor in his class, but he still feels good physically, mentally and spiritually and that his racing skill set remains solid. “I feel the same physically as when I was 40 … If I could get in the top 10 or even the top six, that would be a great goal,” he said. “Top six would be ideal.”

It’s been a banner season for the sports car racing veteran, whose career highlights have mostly come behind the wheel of his own modified 1964 MGB.

He drove the Austin to two straight SCCA U.S. Majors Hoosier Super Tour wins one spring weekend – “it took me three years to win one,” Okell said – and emerged needing only one third-place finish in the next two races to clinch the championship.

He took it down to the wire: serious transmission problems prevented him from finishing on day 1 in Shelton, Wash., but his crew located parts elsewhere and installed them that night. The next day he managed to finish third and won the crown by a single point.

The previous month Okell set a track lap record at Button Willow Raceway Park in Bakersfield, California.

More recently he scored a two-victory weekend with the MGB at Sears Point in the NASPORT Light series. He’ll line up to race closer to home Aug. 19 and 20 at the River’s Edge Raceway in Mission amongst a field of vintage cars, and will wind up his season with the Pacific Coast Road Racing Championships at the United States Auto Club track in east Los Angeles in the fall.

In general Okell feels that he’s driving almost as well as he ever has. After taking a hiatus from the sport between 1988 and ‘95, he became more focused and driven, he added, and that attitude has stayed with him.

It’s also made racing more fun, to the point where he sees himself continuing for some time yet.

editor@vicnews.com

Auto racing

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

Just Posted

Rachna Singh, MLA for Surrey-Green Timbers, is the Parliamentary Secretary for Anti-Racism Initiatives. (Photo courtesy of flickr.com/photos/bcgovphotos)
A micro brewery is being eyed for Jordan River. However, the site where the brewery is proposed still needs to go through the rezoning process. (Black Press Media file)
Micro brewery proposed for Jordan River

Jordan River Brewing Company envisions to build wholesale, sit-in brewery along Highway 14

Traffic waits at the intersection of Highway 17 and Beacon Avenue. A study found failing levels of service at the intersection of Highway 17 and Sidney’s Beacon Avenue for multiple movements during morning peak traffic and for all left-moving traffic during afternoon peak traffic. (Wolf Depner/News Staff)
Province supports potential interim improvements to Sidney intersection

Province says interchange is the long-term plan for intersection of Beacon Avenue and Highway 17

Oak Bay local Lachlan Kratz (red, middle) has signed with pro rugby team NOLO Gold in Louisiana. (Contributed photo)
Oak Bay local signs with pro rugby team

Lachlan Kratz at 21 is now NOLO Gold’s youngest member

Vancouver resident Beryl Pye was witness to a “concerning,” spontaneous dance party that spread throughout social groups at Kitsilano Beach on April 16. (Screen grab/Beryl Pye)
VIDEO: Dance party erupts at Vancouver’s Kitsilano Beach to the dismay of onlookers

‘It was a complete disregard for current COVID-19 public health orders,’ says Vancouver resident Beryl Pye

Lord Tweedsmuir’s Tremmel States-Jones jumps a player and the goal line to score a touchdown against the Kelowna Owls in 2019. The face of high school football, along with a majority of other high school sports, could significantly change if a new governance proposal is passed at the B.C. School Sports AGM May 1. (Malin Jordan)
Power struggle: New governance model proposed for B.C. high school sports

Most commissions are against the new model, but B.C. School Sports (BCSS) and its board is in favour

Russ Ball (left) and some of the team show off the specimen after they were able to remove it Friday. Photo supplied
Courtenay fossil hunter finds ancient turtle on local river

The specimen will now make its home at the Royal BC Museum

Pall Bearers carrying the coffin of the Duke of Edinburgh, followed by the Prince of Wales, left and Princess Anne, right, into St George’s Chapel for his funeral, at Windsor Castle, in Windsor, England, Saturday April 17, 2021. (Danny Lawson/Pool via AP)
Trudeau announces $200K donation to Duke of Edinburgh award as Prince Philip laid to rest

A tribute to the late prince’s ‘remarkable life and his selfless service,’ the Prime Minister said Saturday

B.C. homeowners are being urged to take steps to prepare for the possibility of a flood by moving equipment and other assets to higher ground. (J.R. Rardon)
‘Entire province faces risk’: B.C. citizens urged to prepare for above-average spring flooding

Larger-than-normal melting snowpack poses a threat to the province as warmer weather touches down

Vancouver-based Doubleview Gold Corp. is developing claims in an area north of Telegraph Creek that occupies an important place in Tahltan oral histories, said Chad Norman Day, president of the Tahltan Central Government. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/HO)
B.C. Indigenous nation opposes mineral exploration in culturally sensitive area

There’s “no way” the Tahltan would ever support a mine there, says Chad Norman Day, president of its central government

Stz’uminus Elder George Harris, Ladysmith Mayor Aaron Stone, and Stz’uminus Chief Roxanne Harris opened the ceremony. (Cole Schisler photo)
Symbolic red dresses rehung along B.C. highway after vandals tore them down

Leaders from Stz’uminus First Nation and the Town of Ladysmith hung new dresses on Sat. April 17

A Western toadlet crosses the centre line of Elk View Road in Chilliwack on Aug. 26, 2010. A tunnel underneath the road has since been installed to help them migrate cross the road. Saturday, April 24 is Save the Frogs Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Progress File)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of April 18 to 24

Save the Frogs Day, Love Your Thighs Day and Scream Day are all coming up this week

The Attorney General’s Ministry says certain disputes may now be resolved through either a tribunal or the court system, pending its appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court decision that reduced the tribunal’s jurisdiction. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
Court of Appeal grants partial stay in ruling on B.C. auto injuries

B.C. trial lawyers challenged legislation brought in to cap minor injury awards and move smaller court disputes to the Civil Resolution Tribunal

Most Read