As he inches toward 70, Saanich sports car driver Bill Okell is capping 2023 with a pair of awards recognizing his racing.
A mishap at the start of a year-end race at the Sacramento-area Thunderhill Raceway Park saw him immediately drop from the pole position to last place, but he managed to fight his way back and cross the finish line in fourth.
Despite the season’s final race not going as planned, four straight race wins earlier in the year helped the 69-year-old claim his second career Western Conference victory on the Sports Car Club America’s U.S. Majors tour.
The success on the track was followed by accolades unexpectedly rolling in for Okell this fall.
The Confederation of Autosport Car Clubs (CACC) awarded him for being a driver with outstanding commitment and success in races outside Canada. That paralleled with a subsequent honour in November when the Vintage Racing Club of BC gave him an award for his driving at international competitions.
“It really was an amazing year for us, we did really well and accomplished a lot and it’s nice those associations recognized me,” Okell said in an interview.
“It’s neat because you don’t see those things coming.”
Whether it’s a few years or another decade away, he knows there’s an end date on his racing days. The recent awards being voted on by his peers were meaningful as they recognize the results he continues to post, but also the respect for the style and demeanour of his racing.
Okell tries to be a student of his craft and takes pride in leaving this season with only a few trouble laps to look back on. Keeping his wits about him on the track and not being overly aggressive also means he heads into the offseason with his two cars in good condition.
While the driver has no plans of retiring from behind the wheel of his MG Midget speedster, Okell is putting more emphasis on finishing strong during this phase of his career.
“Just because you get older doesn’t mean you get slower, you can get older and get better.”