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US female driver given speed record in fatal crash

An American racing driver has been posthumously awarded the fastest land-speed record by a female, a feat she died trying to achieve.

Jessi Combs died in a crash after attempting to break the land-speed record in the Alvord Desert, Oregon, on 27 August 2019.

Her jet-powered car clocked a record speed of 522.783 mph (841.338 km/ph).

Guinness World Records has confirmed Ms Combs, 39, was the first person to break the record in more than 40 years.

The previous record was set by American stuntwoman Kitty O’Neil, whose jet-powered, three-wheeled vehicle hit 512.7 mph in 1976 in the Alvord Desert.

Ms Comb’s partner, Terry Madden, expressed mixed emotions in an Instagram post about the record confirmation.

Mr Madden wrote that “no record could ever be worth her not being here”.

“But it was a goal that she really wanted – and as hard as it is for me to even look at the car without crying. I’m so proud of her,” he added. “She woke up that morning to an alarm saying ‘lets make history’ and we had an absolutely amazing day.”

He and Ms Combs had a “heart to heart” about the run, which was supposed to be her last attempt at the record, Mr Madden wrote.

“That was to be the last time she ever got in that car,” Mr Madden wrote. “It has tore me apart that all I had to do was say let’s go and we would have left before that run.”

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Ms Combs’s car crashed due to “a mechanical failure of the front wheel”, which was “most likely caused from striking an object on the desert”, a police investigation found.

Harney County Sheriff’s Office said the wheel failure happened when the car was moving at a speed nearing 550 mph.

Combs’s cause of death was determined to be “blunt force trauma to the head”, it said. The vehicle burst into flames after the crash.

In his Instagram post, Mr Madden maintained Ms Combs had done everything right.

A TV presenter and professional racing driver with many accolades, Ms Combs already held a women’s land-speed record in a four-wheeled vehicle.

In 2013, she set a new race record of 398 mph, earning her the nickname “the fastest woman on four wheels”. She went on to break her own record in 2016.

Throughout her career as a racing driver, Ms Combs was a passionate supporter of increasing female representation in the sport.

She co-hosted the Spike TV show Xtreme 4×4 for four years in the 2000s and appeared on several TV shows, including Overhaulin’ and Mythbusters.

In an Instagram post, shared days before her death, Ms Combs appeared determined to break Ms O’Neil’s land-speed record.

“It may seem a little crazy to walk directly into the line of fireā€¦ those who are willing, are those who achieve great things,” she wrote. “People say I’m crazy. I say thank you ;).”

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