I guess the news hit me hard because I've been following Land Speed Racing since Art Arfons, Gary Gabalitch, Craig Breedlove, heck, stories of Sir Malcomb Campbell captured my imagination as a young boy. I've been going to Bonneville for years, driven LSR cars several times, and have been out to Alvord dry lake for a test session, where they were running the car last week before tragedy struck around 4pm Tuesday.
I've been interested more recently North American Eagle, about the time Jessi Combs joined Ed Shadle as a co-driver. Compared to the mega-funded UK based Bloodhound project, the converted F104 land speed jet car project is on a shoestring budget. The consummate underdog. Same as Craig Breedlove's Spirit of America program, compared to the Thrust SSC (super sonic car) enterprise that went on to break the speed of sound on land.
I never had the opportunity to meet her, but I can tell from her on-camera work (cable car shows), she was 'the real deal'. An amazing adventurer.
No star struck fan, I've had the good fortune to talk at length with Craig Breedlove in his Rio Vista shop, talk car design with the fastest man on earth Andy Green, chatted with Al Unser Sr., took a class from Fast Jack Beckman (before he made it big), even spent a few minutes with John Force. I've become friends with the guy who started ET mag wheels in the late 60's, and later owned an Indy Car team. If you've ever spent any time around those who have accomplished much, they all have this certain, calm, confidence about them, a wonderment of believing in achieving the possible, and a twinkle in their eye as though 'they have the secret to living a life worth living' and an excitement for life that is very contagious. I believe Jessi was also one of those folks. It's a sad day when one of those folks, pays the ultimate price.
So here's a toast to those who aren't content to watch the world go by, rather, to those who live life, those walk willingly into the line of fire, and accept the risks that come with it.
God's Speed Jessi