Bill Okell of Saanich gives the thumbs up after a 2020 race at Buttonwillow Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. (Photo by Cali Photography)

Bill Okell of Saanich gives the thumbs up after a 2020 race at Buttonwillow Raceway in Bakersfield, Calif. (Photo by Cali Photography)

Dream to race at Indianapolis one last time close to reality for Saanich driver

Bill Okell aims to be in the U.S. auto racing mecca this fall

One might think preparing to qualify for the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) National Championship Runoffs in Indianapolis would involve plenty of practice, testing the car, checking out the track – those sorts of things.

The biggest thing on Saanich driver Bill Okell’s mind of late has been getting his second COVID-19 vaccination shot and booking tests. Having received his shot Aug. 7 and having a good line on securing a test immediately following his SCCA race weekend in Denver Aug. 21 to 22, he’s hopeful he’ll have no quarantine period.

“I’ve been spending more time on the internet looking for COVID tests than anything else,” Okell told Black Press Media recently. “I feel like I’ve been trying to put a square peg in a round hole trying to avoid the quarantine period.”

From a racing perspective, the 66-year-old racer, who competed at the Brickyard in Indianapolis when the Runoffs were last held there in 2017, is excited for what he said may well be his final chance to race at the iconic track.

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“I think the best way to explain it is you have a time clock and it is ticking. The excitement comes not so much from the anticipation but the reality of the situation,” he said. “I have the funding and the time and my family supports me. Inside, I’m still 35 to 40 years of age, but we put as much padding in the car as we can to make it a little more comfortable.”

Adjusted rules for this year’s championships require Okell to finish as few as 50 per cent of the leaders’ laps in each race in Denver to qualify for the 2021 nationals, which happen Sept. 25 to Oct. 3.

He’ll be driving a 1992 MG Midget, a car that unlike most others he has raced – and rented – since 2014 in his partnership with California-based Huffaker Motorsports, has had valuable performance improvements on the suspension and other elements.

He’ll race in the H Production class in Denver, and with a little luck, Indianapolis. Shutting the car down after accomplishing the qualifying lap minimum is an option for Denver, Okell said. But being behind the wheel of a car that may be at or near the top of the class may make it hard to resist staying out there for the duration.

“This car is actually faster than the F Production car I had been driving,” he said of the Midget, which he previously drove to second- and third-place finishes at an SCCA event in Bakersfield, Calif. in early 2020.

Another change this year is Okell will drive as an owner, having worked out an agreement to apply rental costs to the purchase of the car from Huffaker.

“Usually when I rent these cars, the premise is they’re not really national championship cars,” Okell explained. In the case of the Midget, the money spent to boost the car’s performance was spent by the previous two owners, to Okell’s benefit. “The R&D has been done by others and I get to take advantage … the money that has been spent has been well founded and they’ve done a great job.”

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Okell has been keeping his racing chops up over at River’s Edge Raceway in Mission, B.C. He has recorded three firsts and three second-place finishes driving a friend’s Mazda Miata in the GTU class.

More information on the SCCA National Championship Runoffs can be found at scca.com and searching for 2021 Runoffs. Okell’s race would be scheduled for Oct. 1 at 9:15 a.m. local time and the races will be livestreamed.


 

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