SEPT. 11, 2001, was a Tuesday, the first day
of the 29th Solo National Championships.
The opening ceremonies had barely begun
when American Airlines Flight 11 smashed
into the North Tower of the World Trade
Center. At almost the same moment the first
cars were sent out on course in Topeka,
Kan., United Airlines Flight 175 was flown into
the South Tower. Half an hour later American
Flight 77 hit the Pentagon. It was another
half hour before the brave passengers of
United Flight 93 overpowered their hijackers
and brought the plane down in an empty
field near Shanksville, Penn. Its passengers
included the only SCCA members among the
9/11 victims: Joe DeLuca and Linda Gronlund
of Northern New Jersey Region.
By that point, the U.S. Armed Forces at
Forbes Field were aware of what was going
on. Competition on the North Course had
moved into Heat 2, and when it concluded
the competition was stopped and everyone
moved off the grids and to the north, where
the 190th Refueling Wing of the Kansas Air
National Guard is based. A barrier of
construction vehicles and large trucks was
rolled into place, interspersed with military
vehicles manned by men with guns.
Suddenly a happy autocross under
cloudless azure skies – the same skies as over
New York that fateful day – had turned into a
war zone. The South Course, moving faster
than the North, had gotten into its third heat
when the word came to evacuate the event
site. By this point, no-fly orders had gone out
around the country – airplanes everywhere
were sent down at the nearest airport.
SCCA President Steve Johnson was on a
flight to Ohio to visit with National
Championship Runoffs sponsors. The plane
had just taken off from Kansas City when it
was sent back. Johnson immediately
returned to Topeka where he met with
Forbes Field and National Guard officials. It
was SCCA’s order, not the airport’s or the military’s, to clear the
event site, an act in keeping with doing what was best for the safety
and security of everyone involved.
1. Donald Elzinga Det Reynard FF 122.128
2. Nick Myers Indy Van Diemen RF85 122.359
3. Mark Lamm Indy Van Diemen RF85 122.771
4. John Engstrom Chi Swift DB1 123.069
5. Andrew Howe Ore Reynard FF 123.432
6. Joshua Parker/NEng (Reynard FF); 7. Ken Hurd/MoHu (Citation FF); 8. Peter
Calhoun/Chi (Swift DB1); 9. Chris Pruett/SagV (Swift DB1); 10. John Carriere/Det
(Reynard FF); 11. Jim Garry/MoHu (Citation FF); 12. Dennis Healy/Ore (Reynard FF); 13.
Ray Thomas/Cinc (Reynard FF); 14. Clancy Schmidt/Kan (Swift DB1).
C MODIFIED LADIES
planner at the Pentagon, who was doing
his Heat 2 worker assignment in the
announcer’s car when a tap on the
window told him to get back to
Washington by any means possible.
But now the remaining competitors
moved back into the paddock area and set
about cramming 15 heats through a system
intended to handle 10 over a two-day period.
This is where everyone involved stepped up
their game. Conventional wisdom of the day
said a car could not be started sooner than
every 25 seconds. Otherwise corners don’t
have time to replace pylons, timing crumbles
under information overload, drivers are
rushed and lose concentration leading to
more cone hits.
But now cars were being fired out on
course at 16- to 18-second intervals. Course
workers shagged cones on the dead run.
Timing kept up. Drivers bore down. Reruns
Competitors volunteered for extra duty,
filling in gaps left by those who could not be
there, or just adding needed manpower.
Everyone worked at a frantic pace, but
under a controlled determination to get it
done and done right.
The National Championships were
completed. Fifty-nine drivers drove home as
champions. Another 895 left Forbes Field
knowing they had been part of the most
singular event in the history of the Solo
Nationals. Few may know what a bunch of
autocrossers did that week, and in the grand
scheme of things it may be just a faint blip
on the radar of history.
But to the drivers and officials of the 2001
Solo Nationals and the SCCA leadership, it
was what they could do at the time to stand
up for American freedoms, to send their own
small message that when attacked, America
does not back down.
C MODIFIED onald Elzinga Detroit Region Reynard FF
and Mark Lamm, co-driving the
Myers Van Diemen, at 62. 6.
On Friday, the new day on the more
open East Course made it anyone’s
championship to win. Elzinga, showed
his preference for the East’s layout
early, firing off a 60. 3 on his first run.
Engstrom, Myers and Lamm fought to
keep it close. By the end of the day,
eight more drivers would run 60s, but
on his second run Elzinga raised the
bar, dropping to a class-leading 59.766.
He would run the only 59s of the day
more than making up his 0.4sec first
day deficit to Myers.
Andrew Howe, Lamm and Myers
were all in range of one another, but
still trailed Elzinga by 0.3sec. His
Friday run gave him a two-day total of