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Saanich racer Bill Okell looks long-term after wins and early season setbacks

Sports car driver has his sights set on Indianapolis Motor Speedway

As someone who's usually healthy, it was jarring for Bill Okell to be sidelined for several weeks after a bout with COVID-19 earlier this year. 

The illness caused the Saanich sports car driver to miss out on two important races early in the Sports Car Club of America season. 

"It was hugely disappointing," Okell said in an interview. 

The early season setback was compounded by those missed races including Hoosier Super Tour events that could've vaulted Okell up the national standings.

However, after recovering physically, the driver picked up some extra events to make up for the ones he lost out on. Once given the chance to get back in the driver's seat, he didn't waste the opportunity. 

Okell won two races in Sacramento, Calif. in April, then added another two finishes atop the podium weeks later at a pair of contests in Portland.

Those victories secured a second place finish in the Western Conference for the driver, but the California events didn't count towards his national rankings. While he still earned the eighth spot on that national list, it's a ways back from a year ago when the Saanich speedster was hovering around the top three in the nation. 

The unexpected start to the season means Okell will likely hold off on trying to compete in this year's national championships, but he's not dwelling on the experience. 

"I really appreciated the fact that I can get out here an do this," the 69-year-old said of being able to fully recuperate and find success at several events. "There's just a greater appreciation of just being healthy and running those races."

Okell plans to focus more on his Greater Victoria business this summer, but that doesn't mean he won't be behind the wheel. He'll be competing in a series that only sees drivers race with MG Midget sports cars like his own. Those competitions will take him to places like Vancouver and Portland over the next several months. 

Another reason the driver is sitting out of the national championships this year is because he's playing the long-game. In the coming years, the national title will likely see drivers descend on Indianapolis Motor Speedway – a mecca of racing Okell hopes to once again compete at. 

Before then, he wants to build a more powerful engine that will give him a better shot at beating his last Indianapolis finish, when he was just a few spots off the podium. 

"I'd obviously like to win this, so we're taking some time to build a brand new style of engine," he said, noting that system will take some time to test out and fine tune. "When we go back to Indianapolis, we're not going to be a top-ten car, we're going to hopefully be a top-three car." 

Jake Romphf

About the Author: Jake Romphf

In early 2021, I made the move from the Great Lakes to Greater Victoria with the aim of experiencing more of the country I report on.
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