The world’s 6 fastest women

Meet some of the fastest women in the world – in the air, on water and on land.
By Will Gray

The race to be fastest on land, sea and air has pushed humans and technology forward for more than a century. It's not for the faint-hearted – the key ingredients being a big chunk of adrenaline and a pinch of insanity – and while it is traditionally a male-dominated domain, here are some of the high-speed women on the planet who are mixing it with the men.

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Fastest flying woman

World's fastest female wingsuit flyer Ellen Brennan soars over the mountains
Ellen Brennan © Damien Deschamps

Name: Ellen Brennan
Speed: 190kph

Brennan is one of the world’s top wingsuit fliers. She has set record after record, winning every female BASE competition in the last two years (apart from this year, which she missed). She also hit 230kph jumping out of a plane.

“I was honestly shocked at how well I did in the competitions and after my first I devoted all my time to jumping,” she said. “Every good-weather day I was jumping, analysing video and GPS data, and repeating.”

Fastest female electric vehicle driver

Eva Håkansson's record-breaking electric motorbike and sidecar
Eva Håkansson © Martin Schoeller/Johnnie Walker

Name: Eva Håkansson
Speed: 434.9kph

Håkansson’s KillaJoule record-breaker is an electric motorcycle sidecar and is the fastest electric bike in the world. The PhD student hit her top speed in 2014 and averaged 387.328kph on the flying mile in the process.

“This has consumed all my spare time and money the past years,” said Håkansson, who has now cashed in by featuring in Johnnie Walker’s Joy Will Take You Further campaign. “As soon as I exceed the record speed I am entering uncharted territory… so it is quite nerve-wracking.”

Fastest female sailboarder

Zara Davis sails along the unique desert canal in Namibia on her way to a world record
Zara Davis © Pete Davis

Name: Zara Davis
Speed: 84.87kph

Davis, who works as an osteopath, travelled to a specially-built canal in the Namibian desert to set her record. At the time, only two other women had ever gone over 40kts (74kph) and she shattered the previous best.

“We were sailing in 45+ knots of wind and the canal was choppy and narrow,” she said. “The run itself felt quiet, still almost. But those are the fast ones – when you're not fighting your gear.”

Seven-time motorbike record breaker

Valerie Thompson on a record run at Bonneville Salt Flats
Valerie Thompson © Auto Mutt Productions

Name: Valerie Thompson
Speed: 350.53kph

One of the world’s fastest female motorbike riders, Thompson is a rare female member of the Bonneville 200 MPH Club. She set a record on a CTEK BMW S 1000 RR last year and plans to go even faster later this month.

“When I did start I didn't act like the girl,” she told HNGN. “Now I feel like I'm a girl, I can have my rhinestones and Swarovski crystals on my helmet and on my race bike. But my bike doesn't know what gender it is."

Fastest woman on four wheels

Jessi Combs pilots the American Eagle land speed record car to a world record
Jessi Combs © www.landspeed.com

Name: Jessi Combs
Speed: 632.39kph

In a car pieced together from the remains of an F-104 Lockheed Starfighter, TV presenter Combs hit 693.49kph on a dry lakebed in Oregon. Her two-way record-setting run smashed the previous speed by 135kph.

Kitty O’Neal is still the outright female land-speed record holder however, having hit 823.98kph in 1976, but her SMI Motivator vehicle only had three wheels.

Fastest woman on two wheels

Becci Ellis rides her turbo-powered bike to a world record on two wheels
Becci Ellis © Phil Evans

Name: Becci Ellis
Speed: 425kph

Ellis’s husband spent three years developing the turbo boost system for her 1300cc Hayabusa-engined bike. It paid off when she rode it to a record in 2014 and, despite a massive crash this year, she plans to go faster still.

“It wasn't just about breaking the record it was everything we had worked so hard for all coming together,” she said. “We will now rebuild my bike better than before and make it as stable as possible for 250mph-plus speeds.”

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