Officials at Guinness World Records have unequivocally proclaimed Jessi Combs the “fastest female driver on earth,” nearly a year after she was killed while speeding across the Alvord Desert in Oregon at 522.783 mph in a converted fighter jet on August 27, 2019. Although she technically reached a top speed of 548.432 mph during her two runs, the Guinness Book of World Records set the time by determining the two-way average between both.
According to the Harney County Sheriff’s office, Jessi died of blunt force trauma after her vehicle apparently collided with an unknown object in the desert while moving at top speed.
The previous record was 512.710 mph, set by stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil in a $350,000 hydrogen peroxide powered three-wheeled rocket car built by Bill Fredrick called the “SMI Motivator” at the same location in 1976. It is interesting to note that at that time, O’Neil’s runs reportedly used only 60% of the available thrust, and Kitty, herself, estimated that she would have been able to exceeded 700 miles per hour driving at full strength. It should also be mentioned that O’Neil piloted a hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket dragster constructed by Ky Michaelson in the Mojave Desert with an average speed of 279.5 mph in 1977. However, because the run was not repeated according to NHRA regulations, it was never recognized as an official drag racing record.