The professional racer was tragically killed in a jet car crash.
On Tuesday, we learned that while attempting to beat her own land speed record in a 52,000 horsepower jet-powered car, Jessi Combs was killed as it crashed in the Alvord Desert in southeast Oregon. She was just 39 years old.
Combs became the fastest woman on four wheels in 2013 when she set a record of 398 mph at North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger. In October last year, she attempted to beat the record again and touched 483.2 mph in a shakedown run, but was thwarted from making a record run by mechanical problems. She died pursuing the goal of beating the record for Fastest Woman on Earth, set in 1976 by Kitty O'Neil.
Combs was an important figure in automotive culture. After being trained in fabrication at WyoTech, she made her way into television work as host, technical expert, and builder on shows including Xtreme 4x4, Truck U, Overhaulin', and Two Guys Garage. She was also responsible for bringing All Girls Garage onto our screens. On a more mainstream level, Combs also took up host and build duties for Mythbusters when host Kari Byron went on maternity leave. On Twitter, Adam Savage expressed his grief and extolled her virtues as top-notch builder, engineer, driver, fabricator, and science communicator.
Outside of TV, Combs was a fierce competitor in a variety of disciplines. Amongst other things, she nailed down a Class 10 podium finish at the Baja 1000 and was the first woman to place at the King of the Hammers. Her list of firsts also includes being the first woman to compete in The Race of Gentlemen event.
Jessi Combs will be remembered not just for her bravery and dogged determination to break speed records, but also as a positive presence in the automotive community, a master fabricator and, perhaps most importantly, a role model and advocate for women in the car community and workplace. Her family issued a statement that poignantly points out: "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."
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