For those readers who don't follow the rather esoteric sport of land speed racing beyond Andy Green's speed-of-sound blast or the Beach Boys' ode to Craig Breedlove; who've never gone down to a local dragstrip just to see exhibition runs by jet dragsters after sitting through a bunch of ten-second Sportsman cars, Richard Hammond's accident may have been a bit of a head-scratcher. As in, "What kind of hoon would build such a machine?"
There were two hoons who started it all. They were brothers from Ohio, and their names are Walt and Art Arfons. Although Art is the more famous of the two, his brother was actually the first to build a jet dragster. Awash in WWII and Cold War surplus aircraft parts, the two first built an Allison V-12-engined car and then moved on to jets.
Walt was the first guy to run a parachute for braking; he and Art as a team were the first drag racers above 150 in the quarter. And at some point (and we don't know any more about this than what we're writing), Art decided that he'd stick pontoons on one of his Green Monster LSR jet cars and attempt to set a speed record on water.
A Gallery of Jet Cars [The Rocketman]; Breaking! Top Gear Presenter Richard Hammond in Car Crash [Internal]