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Jessi Combs:  July 27, 1980 – August 27, 2019

Sadly, television personality and professional driver Jessi Combs died Tuesday in Oregon trying to break a land speed record in a jet car.  She was 39.

Jessi Combs was born in the Black Hills of Rapid City, SD. and had a lifelong desire to become a race car driver.  She was a fearless young lady.

She was on the dry lake bed of the Alvord Desert pursuing a land speed record in the North American Eagle (jet-powered vehicle) on August, 27th 2019 on the dry lake bed.  The details of the crash have not been released at this time.

North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger

Land speed records have been set or attempted in the past on the dried lake bed of the Alvord Desert.  The Alvord Desert is located in Harney County, in southeastern Oregon.  It is roughly southeast of Steens Mountain.

In 2013, Jessi Combs broke the four-wheeled women’s land speed record there at a speed of nearly 393 mph in her 52,000-horsepower, 56-foot-long,  North American Eagle Supersonic Speed Challenger — a reconfigured F-104 jet — on the 13-mile course. Then, in 2016, Combs broke 440 mph and was dubbed the fastest woman on four wheels.

In 2018, during a shakedown run, she set a new record of 483.227 mph.  Unfortunately, a panel fell off the car and dangled at 488 mph until part of it broke off and went into the intake on the left side.  There wasn’t a lot of damage, but enough where they had to pack up the pits and take it back to the shop in order to fix the first 2 turbine blade levels.

The group’s stated goal was to break the land speed record of 763 mph, which was set on Nevada’s Black Rock Desert in 1997.

Jessi was an icon in the industry, and my thoughts are with her family and loved ones.

UPDATED: November 12, 2019 — Earlier this month the Harney County Sheriff’s Department and the North American Eagle race team released information regarding the cause of the crash. It was determined after extensive investigation that a failure in the front wheel caused the accident. In a press release, Lieutenant Brian Needham of the Harney County Sheriff’s Department said:

“Based on the evidence collected and examined at the scene of the crash and the evidence recovered by the North American Race Team, it appears that there was a mechanical failure of the front wheel, most likely caused from striking an object on the desert. The front wheel failure led to the front wheel assembly collapsing. The front wheel failure occurred at speeds approaching 550 mph.”

UPDATED: July 2020 — Almost one year after she was killed in an accident in the Alvord Desert in Oregon, the Guinness World Records organization announced during an event held in Jessi Combs’s honor at the Petersen Automotive Museum that Combs has in fact set the new record of 522.783 miles per hour.

The Guinness World Records statement was: “The fastest land speed record (female) is 841.338 kph (522.783 mph), and was achieved by Jessi Combs (USA) in the Alvord Desert, Oregon, USA, on 27 August 2019,” the Guinness announcement reads. “Jessi is the first person to break this record in more than 40 years.

The previous record of 512.7 miles an hour for the fastest woman on earth was set back in 1976 by Kitty O’Neil.

The Alvord Desert is in a remote area of southeastern Oregon, about 400 miles southeast of Portland. From the snow-capped Steens Mountain to the steamy hot springs to the sun-dried, cracked desert floor, this desolate landscape is nearly 5 miles wide and 10 miles long.

Photos courtesy Jessi Combs Instagram and website

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