Last year, we lost a legend in the automotive community. Jessi Combs, world-class fabricator, show host, off-road racing champion and all around gearhead, died after her jet car crashed while attempting to break the women’s land speed record on August 27, 2019 in the Alvord Desert in Oregon. Her attempt was entered posthumously into the The Guinness Book Of World Records yesterday, reaffirming once again that Combs truly was and is the fastest woman on four wheels.
Combs set out to break the land speed record Kitty O’Neil set back in 1976 in the same desert. O’Neil hit 512.7 miles per hour, destroying the previous record which barely reach 200. Combs had made a previous attempt to beat O’Neil’s speed and reached 483 mph before the attempt was scrapped due to safety concerns.
Before the catastrophic crash, Combs completed the Guinness-required minimum two runs at Alvord in the jet-powered North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger. Her first run hit 515.346 mph while the second was 548.432 mph. That means her average speed was 531.889 mph—just under 20 mph faster than O’Neil’s time. It’s not clear how Guinness settled on 522.783 mph as the record-breaking speed.
It took 40 years and the loss of one of the most recognizable women in automotive, but O’Neil’s record has been officially broken. In a statement following her death, Comb’s family described this moment as her number one goal in life:
Jessi’s most notable dream was to become the fastest woman on Earth, a dream she had been chasing since 2012. Combs was one of the rare dreamers with the bravery to turn those possibilities into reality, and she left this earth driving faster than any other woman in history.
Surrounded by her family and friends at the time of her passing, Jessi lived fearlessly and her legacy lives on in the countless lives she touched.
The cause of the accident was later blamed on a failure in the front wheel after it struck something on the course while traveling at 550 mph. There are still questions, however, over if proper safety precautions were taken to avoid such a tragedy.