Saanich driver Bill Okell leads a group of cars around a curve during racing at the 2018 Sports Car Club of America national championships at Sonoma Raceway in California last weekend. Photo by Mark Webber

Saanich driver posts best-ever finish at sports car nationals in U.S.

Bill Okell rebounds from sluggish qualifying session to take fifth in GT Light race

The right tires made all the difference for Bill Okell of Saanich at the Sports Car Club of America national championships at Sonoma Raceway in California last weekend.

The 64-year-old driver raced an Austin Healey to a fifth-place finish in Saturday’s GT Light class race, zooming through the largely American field after qualifying in 15th spot. The results was Okell’s best ever in several trips to the nationals.

For improving his position during the race, Okell earned the Sunoco Hard Charger Award, given to the driver who moves up the most places from start to finish.

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A mistake during qualifying saw him driving with an older set of tires that slowed down his lap times, Okell said. Team owner Joe Hufaker advised his driver last Thursday (Oct. 18) to go buy a new set of tires and the result was roughly four seconds per lap improvement come race time.

“Overall it was a really good week,” he said back home in Saanich. “I think we kind of went from a C– earlier in the week to a B+ after the races.”

Okell also drove the Austin in Sunday’s F Production class race, for which he had also qualified 15th. There he finished 10th, hampered by a transmission problem that saw the car locked in second gear. Had that not happened, Okell said he would likely have moved up to about seventh spot.

His results made him the second-highest finishing Canadian among 15 or so drivers at the meet.

It’ll be 2021 before the nationals come back to the West Coast, so Okell expects he may not return until then.



c.vanreeuwyk@blackpress.ca

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