It’s hard to believe that it’s been three years since the world lost the inimitable and speed-obsessed Jessi Combs. Still, even though she’s no longer with us, absolutely no one who knew of her is keen to let her accomplishments fade into half-forgotten memory any time soon. Case in point: On October 20, 2022, HBO Max officially released The Fastest Woman on Earth, the official documentary about Combs, her accomplishments, and her life.
In June, 2020, the Guinness World Records organization officially declared Jessi Combs to have achieved “fastest land speed record (female)”. She set this record on August 27, 2019, at the Alvord Desert in Oregon, not long before her untimely death later that day. It was a goal she’d set her sights on a long time ago—but she made it happen.
The official speed recorded by Guinness was 841.338 kilometers per hour, which is also 522.783 miles per hour. Prior to Combs, the title was held by Kitty O’Neil, who set her record of 512 mph way back in 1976. As you can see in this trailer for the Jessi Combs documentary, she purposely sought out O’Neil to ask for her blessing in chasing down her record.
The number of people—and yes, especially women—who Combs’ story inspired and continues to inspire is truly incalculable. Since her passing, there have been numerous tributes, including special, limited-time exhibits—but a streaming documentary that can be accessed anywhere that people have HBO Max is a whole new level of reach.
During Combs’ too-short life, she encouraged and inspired a lot of people to get into and appreciate all things mechanical—including learning new skills like welding, machining, and more. With the release of this documentary, her reach continues to grow, even beyond death.
Think about the first time you learned about the lives of Bessie Coleman, or Bessie Stringfield, or Beryl Swain. For me, personally, I didn’t learn about any of these three unbelievably strong and talented women until after their passing—but all three are nevertheless sources of both fascination and inspiration. These are women who flew firstly for themselves, but also to show all the rest of us who followed them how to do it. Now Jessi Combs is surely in their firmament, waving us off the starting line.