It is tragic that John Cobb’s speed career should be terminated by an accident to his jet speedboat, as he attained the distinction of being the first man to achieve 200 m.p.h. on the water.
John Rhodes Cobb was born in Surrey in 1899 and educated at Eton and Cambridge. He began his racing career in Warde’s 10-litre chain-drive Fiat at Brooklands, and raced in a far greater number of makes than many people imagine. His main love, however, was for the Brooklands outer-circuit, over which he set up some very high speeds, first in the 10½-litre V12 Delage, later in the 24-litre Napier-Railton, with which he set the lap record to 143.4 m.p.h. He loved the Weybridge Track and willingly wrote a Foreword to each volume of Boddy’s “Story of Brooklands.”
But Cobb also took a notable series of long-distance records in the Napier-Railton at Montlhery and Utah, holding at one time every world’s record from 1 to 24 hours. He then went on to try his calm hands at the wheel of a Land Speed Record car, his Railton Special taking this honour before the war and after the war was over raising the speed to 394.2 m.p.h., exceeding 400 m.p.h. on land for the first time on one run. He was also the first man to exceed 350 m.p.h. in a motor car.
In a world where temperament is rife and line-shooting and self-advertisement consequently not infrequent, John Cobb stood out as of big modest, calm, almost self-effacing disposition. It is sad that such a charming fastest-man-on-earth should follow Segrave to end his career in full flight out on the water. The Field loses a talented motoring editor, and the sporting world a splendid personality. Our sympathy goes out in full measure to the gallant lady, his wife, who watched his attempts to regain for his country the world’s water-speed record.