American jet-car racer and Mythbusters host Jessi Combs posthumously awarded world land-speed record for a woman
American jet-car speed racer Jessi Combs, known by fans as the “fastest woman on four wheels,” has been posthumously awarded the record for the fastest land-speed by a woman, after she crashed attempting to break the mark.
- Jessi Combs died when her jet-car crashed in the US state of Oregon in August 2019
- It is now confirmed that she achieved a speed of 841.338 kph, breaking the existing mark by more than 18kph
- A mechanical fault led to her crash after she broke the record
The 36-year-old Combs died in August 2019 while making a run for the record on a dry lake bed in Oregon’s Alvord Desert.
Combs was widely known in the niche sport of jet-car racing and was attempting to break the record of 823 kilometres per hour set in 1976 by Kitty O’Neil when she died.
Jet cars are race cars propelled by jet engines.
Combs already held the record as the fastest woman on four wheels — O’Neil piloted a three-wheeled vehicle — for a 641kph performance in 2013 and had driven even faster in follow-up runs, but mechanical problems prevented those from making the record books.
Guinness World Records has updated its website, acknowledging the new mark of 841.338kph.
In a note on the site, Guinness added that Combs was the first person to break the record in more than 40 years.
Terry Madden, Combs’ boyfriend and teammate on the North American Eagle racing team, paid tribute to her in an Instagram post following the news, including a video collage of photos and video clips of Combs.
“And as hard as it is for me to even look at the car [she drove] without crying, I’m so proud of her.
“She woke up that morning to an alarm saying, “Let’s make history”, and we had an absolutely amazing day.”
Madden said Combs had done several good runs but that there were a number of safety concerns that were bothering her.
They had planned to go to a house in Lake Tahoe the next night, but he said Combs decided to do “one last afternoon run to back up her record and then walk away from it for good” and let her backup driver go for the overall world record.
“It has torn me apart that all I had to do is say ‘Let’s go’ and we would have left before that run, she asked my opinion and I told her to go for it if it was what she wanted.”
Madden said that on the final run, the front wheel assembly failed and as Combs decelerated just past the end of the run, it came apart and debris went into the electronics / mechanical bay behind her, causing the accident.