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

Kimberly Proctor, 18, was murdered in 2010. Her family has spent many of the years since pushing for a law in her honour, that they say would help to prevent similar tragedies. (Courtesy of Jo-Anne Landolt)
Proposed law honouring murdered Langford teen at a standstill, lacks government support

Ministry of Mental Health and Addictions has concerns with involuntary detainment portion of act

The speculation and vacancy tax raised about $1.21 million in Sidney and North Saanich combined. (Black Press Media file photo).
North Saanich and Sidney property owners paid $1.21 million in speculation and vacancy tax

Speculation and vacancy tax raised 6.5 million in Greater Victoria

Saanich parks staff will be applying a herbicide called Garlon XRT in Sayward Hill Park between Jan. 18 to 29 to control the invasive species English holly and hawthorn. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Herbicide used to target ‘priority’ invasive species in Saanich park

Treatment applied to English holly, hawthorn stumps, in Sayward Hill Park

Following a cease work order from the District of Highlands in October, the BC Supreme Court ruled Jan. 20. that bylaws won’t apply to O.K. Industries’ work until its quarrying activity is complete. (Courtesy of District of Highlands)
BC Supreme Court rules Highlands quarry work can continue

District bylaws won’t apply until quarrying activities are complete

A worker covers up racist graffiti along the West Shore Parkway. (Courtesy of Anna Young)
RCMP investigating racist graffiti spotted off West Shore Parkway

Hateful vandalism is rare, says Langford bylaw enforcement

Thursday, Jan. 28, 2021 is International Lego Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Jan. 24 to 30

Lego Day, Talk Like a Grizzled Prospector Day and Puzzle Day are all coming up this week

Terry Keogh, an RDN Transit driver, used his paramedic skills the morning of Jan. 22 after coming across an unconscious woman along his route in downtown Nanaimo. (RDN Transit photo)
Nanaimo transit driver stops his bus and helps get overdosing woman breathing again

Former EMT from Ireland performed CPR on a woman in downtown Nanaimo on Friday

Chief Public Health Officer Theresa Tam speaks during a daily briefing in Ottawa. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld)
31 cases of COVID-19 variants detected in Canada: Health officials

Dr. Theresa Tam made announces 13 more variant COVID-19 cases in Canada

Daily COVID-19 cases reported to each B.C. health region, to Jan. 20, 2021. Island Health in blue, Northern Health green, Interior Health orange, Vancouver Coastal in red and Fraser Health in purple. (B.C. Centre for Disease Control)
B.C.’s COVID-19 infection rate stays stable with 508 cases Friday

Vaccine delivered to more than 110,000 high-risk people

Black Press file photo
Investigation at remote burned-out Vancouver Island cabin reveals human remains

Identity of victim not released, believed to be the owner of an SUV vehicle found parked nearby

Angela Waldick is the new team photographer for the Nanaimo NightOwls. (Nanaimo NightOwls photo)
Half-blind photographer will help new Island baseball team look picture-perfect

Nanaimo NightOwls say legally blind team photographer is making history

School District 57 headquarters in Prince George. (Mark Nielsen, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter)
Prince George school district settles with sexual abuse victim

Terms were part of an out-of-court settlement reached with Michael Bruneau, nearly four years after he filed a lawsuit

Surrey provincial court. (File photo: Tom Zytaruk)
New COVID-19 protocols set for provincial courthouses

The new rules were issued on Jan. 21, and took effect immediately

Dog owners, from left, Marlyn Briggs with Nayla, Marjory Sutherland with Effie and Mick, and Christina Godbolt with Conon walk their pets frequently at the Chemainus Ball Park but are growing increasingly concerned about drugs being found discarded in the area. (Photo by Don Bodger)
Puppy rushed to emergency 3 times after ingesting drugs in Chemainus public spaces

Dog owners walking in Chemainus parks urged to take caution

Most Read