Sunday, October 20, 2013

Jessi Combs Sets New Women's 4-Wheel Land Speed Record

I recently got to travel once again to the beautiful Alvord Desert in southeast Oregon to join the North American Eagle team as they continued their assault on the world land speed record. One of the goals for this year's trip was for new co-driver Jessi Combs to attempt to break a pair of long-standing records, the 308 mph mark set at Bonneville in 1965 by Lee Breedlove, wife of then world record holder Craig Breedlove; and the 512 mph record set at Alvord in 1976 by Kitty O'Neal driving the rocket-powered "SMI Motivator."
After just two test runs, on Tuesday, October 8, Jessi broke Breedlove's record, with a two-way average speed of 344.002 mph through the measured mile.
The next day, Jessi climbed back into the NAE vehicle and made two more runs. This time, she went to full afterburner on both runs. With her parents, sister, and "The List" co-host Patrick McIntyre watching, Jessi reached a top speed of 440.709 mph, pushing her two-way average to set a new record of 392.954 mph and making Jessi Combs the fastest woman on four-wheels.
I have created a video showcasing the second of her two October 9 runs, which I posted to YouTube on Friday.
There are also a lot more of my photos on Flickr.
For those curious about the two women's records, Lee Breedlove set her 308 mph mark in her husband's "Spirit of America Sonic 1" jet-powered car, driving on the salt flats at Bonneville. Since Sonic 1 had four wheels, it is considered a "car" and therefore comes under the rules set by the FIA. The vehicle that Kitty O'Neal drove in 1976 had just three wheels and is therefore considered a "motorcycle" and comes under rules set by the FIM.
Also, since it was powered by a hydrogen peroxide rocket engine, Motivator reached its top speed much faster than a jet-powered vehicle, enabling Kitty to go more than 512 mph on the relatively short Alvord Desert. The North American Eagle team hopes to either "coax" a few more usable miles of smooth desert out of the dry lake bed at Alvord or else find another location so that next year Jessi can beat O'Neal's record, making her undisputedly the world's fastest woman. And NAE owner and co-driver Ed Shadle hopes to break the current world land speed record of 763.1 mph, set in 1997 by Andy Green driving the "Thrust SSC."
Since I am at work on a book about the land speed record, I plan to be on-hand when this occurs.

Also, if you would like to learn more about the North American Eagle, Jessi Combs, and the beautiful Alvord Ranch (where the team was graciously hosted by Paul and Toni Davis) check out the following links: