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Jessi Combs Killed in Land-Speed Record Crash

She was 36.


By Bob Sorokanich, Road & Track

Jessi Combs—vehicle builder, racer, fabricator, TV personality, and all-around automotive legend—was killed on Tuesday in a crash while attempting to break her own land-speed record in southeast Oregon. She was 36.

The crash occurred as Combs was piloting her jet-powered land-speed car on the Alvord Desert, a dry lake bed where several land-speed records have been set. According to local reports, the crash happened shortly after 4pm local time.

Combs held the title of "fastest woman on four wheels" after setting a record of 398 mph in her jet-powered North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger in 2013. More recently, she had piloted that same car to 483.227 mph in a single shakedown run in October 2018, though that run ended prematurely with mechanical troubles. (Governing bodies require two back-to-back runs in opposite directions to set an official speed record.)

Combs was a legend in the automotive world. Trained in fabrication and hot-rod building at WyoTech, she soon made her way to automotive television. Combs was a host, builder, and technical expert on shows like Xtreme 4x4, Overhaulin', Truck U, and Two Guys Garage. She brought about Velocity channel's All Girls Garage, and was a host and builder on a season of Discovery Channel's Mythbusters

When not on camera, Combs competed in a wide variety of racing venues. She was the first woman to place at Ultra4's King of the Hammers; she took home a Class 10 podium finish at the Baja 1000; and she ran in the Rallye Aicha des Gazelles, an all-women rally race. She was even the first woman to compete in The Race of Gentlemen, racing a twin-engine 1913 Ford Model T. 

Combs joined the North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger team as driver in 2013. Her goal was to pilot the car (built from a decommissioned fighter jet) beyond 512 mph, the record for Fastest Woman on Earth, set in 1976 by Kitty O'Neil.

Combs' team member Terry Madden confirmed her death in an Instagram post this morning:

Jessi Combs will be remembered as a fearless competitor, a master fabricator, an advocate for women in motorsports and the car community, and a constant positive presence in motorsports and media. Our condolences go out to her family, her friends, her teammates, and her fans worldwide.

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Autos Magazine: Jessi Combs Killed in Land-Speed Record Crash
Jessi Combs Killed in Land-Speed Record Crash
She was 36.
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