Last week Zef Eisenberg very sadly died at Elvington Airfield doing what he loved best – trying to set another world record. He was just 47 years old. He leaves behind his partner Mirella D’Antonio and two children.
During his short-lived career, Eisenberg set over 90 British, World, UKTA, ACU and Guinness Speed Records on both two and four wheels. The most recent record he set only at the end of last month at Elvington, when he set four new FIA benchmarks on the EISENBERG V8 motorcycle.
I was fortunate enough to meet and chat with Zef last year when he received the Simms Medal in honour of his outstanding contribution to motoring innovation by the Royal Automobile Club. He had an infectious enthusiasm and was clearly driven by his passion and was a trailblazer who lived life to the max. He was a dreamer who flew the flag for British engineering and ingenuity and achieved many of the goals he set himself. As someone said to me recently about Zef, “We have one life, and he lived it to the max.”
Guernsey-based Eisenberg grew up in North London. He was passionate about skateboarding from the age of 12 and would often skateboard all the way to school. He had always been creative with wood, plastic and metal and would stay behind at school every evening working in the technology department. Then at the age of 15 he installed an electric motor in a bicycle and to his surprise and delight he discovered that it worked. His success was recognised with a grant for his innovation from a large electronics company.
A year later, he took up bodybuilding and became junior bodybuilding champion of Great Britain. However, to keep in shape, he needed to take protein powder. It was quite costly at the time, so he decided to start a business making his own. He studied for a BSc in nutrition and developed a winning formula that was used by many bodybuilders, athletes and sportspeople throughout the UK.
His business Maximuscle took off thanks to his use of the Internet to grow it exponentially and it grew to become the leading product in the marketplace. It became so successful in fact that Eisenberg eventually sold the business to GlaxoSmithKline and moved to Guernsey where he then concentrated his efforts on his other passion of motorsport, applying his analytical approach and determination to become highly successful in this field. As he once said: “The human body and a vehicle engine have close similarities. Both require the best care, fuel and maintenance to perform at their best.”
Eisenberg began to demonstrate what could be achieved when pushing the boundaries of both human and machine in record-setting challenges. A self-confessed performance junkie, Eisenberg learned his trade with V8 muscle cars and drag motorbikes before he created the world’s most powerful turbine motorbike. Five years of hard work was rewarded with a number of accolades, including a new Guinness record for the fastest turbine bike in the world at 234.01mph.
Then four years ago, in September 2016, Eisenberg survived Britain’s fastest-ever motorcycle crash when the turbine bike failed to stop at the end of the Elvington runway, shattering his pelvis and breaking his pubic bone, hip, femur and seven other bones. He spent three months in hospital, during which doctors told him that he would never walk again. Never one to give up, Eisenberg spent three months in a wheelchair recovering and a further six months learning to walk again. Then 12 months to the day after the accident, he was back at Elvington competing on the rebuilt bike. That’s determination for you!
Early last year, Eisenberg began to develop the world’s fastest electric motorbike. His MADMAX race team worked in close collaboration with Nottingham University PhD students and created a bespoke machine from scratch. In September 2019, he rode it to three World FIM records and one ACU British record for the fastest unfaired electric motorbike in the world.
ITV approached Zef Eisenberg for a new TV programme, aptly named Speed Freaks, which focused on the design, build and engineering of extreme cars. One of these cars was a bespoke 1200bhp Porsche 911 Turbo in which he recorded a speed of 223.4mph on the famous Pendine Sands in south Wales last year. This resulted in Eisenberg becoming the only person in history to hold both car and bike outright speed records at Pendine, and the only person to hold records at over 200mph on sand on both two wheels and four.
Zef Eisenberg – entrepreneur, record-breaker, engineer and philanthropist. Born 22nd March 1973. Died 1st October 2020.
Simon Burrell is Editor of Our Man Behind The Wheel, a professional photographer and former saloon car racing driver.