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Zef Eisenberg: 16 March 1973 to 1 October 2020

Zef Eisenberg Madmax Porsche 911 Turbo S 4.1L, Landspeed record attempt at Pendine Sands on 18 May 2019

Zef Eisenberg before his record run in the Porsche 911 Turbo S at Pendine Sands
Pendine Sands, South Wales, 18 May 2019: Zef Eisenberg in contemplative mood ahead of his record run in the 2015 Porsche 911 Turbo S

It is with great sadness that the motorsport world learned last week that Zef Eisenberg, aged just 47 years, was tragically killed while attempting a land speed record at RAF Elvington, Yorkshire, England. The runway, the longest in the north of England, was built by the United States Air Force but was decommissioned in ’92, and has since become a favourite with those attempting land speed records. Zef was attempting to break the British land speed record for a wheel-driven vehicle when his Porsche 911 Turbo S left the tarmac and flipped, killing the driver.

Zef Eisenberg climbs from the Porsche 911 Turbo S
Pendine Sands, Wales, 18 May 2019: Zef Eisenberg climbs from the Porsche 911 Turbo S after his first record run

Only last year, PORSCHE ROAD & RACE had the pleasure of interviewing Eisenberg at Pendine Sands where he set the land speed record on sand at this famous beach. In 2019 Eisenberg explained, “We spent a year building this car, it can develop 1200 hp at the rear wheels, that is over 1400 hp at the engine. It has been bored out from 3.8-litre to 4.1-litre, it has got bigger turbos, and it’s got a race block and heads.”

The Porsche 911 Turbo S looking decidedly battle weary
Pendine Sands, Wales, 18 May 2019: The Porsche 911 Turbo S looking decidedly battle weary, is allowed to cool down before a second record attempt is made

Zef was extremely proud of his achievements that day at Pendine, as he told the author, “The very first run out there, we got 206.490 mph in the flying quarter mile, that is the fastest ever flying quarter in a wheel powered vehicle. We achieved 196.97 mph one way in the flying mile, the fastest ever one way speed flying mile, we achieved an unbelievable 210.3 mph at the 2-mile trap, no other wheel powered vehicle, bike or car has ever done that.” In fact, Eisenberg became 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 200 mph on sand on both two wheels and four.

Zef at speed on his Eisenberg V8 motorcycle
Zef at speed on his Eisenberg V8 motorcycle. © MADMAX RACING TEAM

Although Zef’s efforts at Pendine were ended by a high speed spin on sand that day, he was full of optimism and said that he had plans to do this run at Elvington in 2020. When we published our story of that Pendine record on our website earlier this year, Zef contacted me and thanked me for the full and frank account of his Pendine achievements. He invited me to attend his Elvington record attempt later in the year but when the time came, I had just returned from the Le Mans 24 Hours in France and was unable to do so as I was required to self-isolate for 14 days as a precaution upon my return.

Zef Eisenberg discusses surface conditions with his team
Pendine Sands, South Wales, 18 May 2019: Zef Eisenberg discusses surface conditions with his team prior to his first run

The news of an accident with a fatality at Elvington was announced on the morning news of 2nd October. This came as a real shock as I had spent time with Zef just the year before, and so the whole incident felt that much closer to home. Zef’s PR manager, Rebecca Leppard summed it up this way, “I’m sure Zef never truly knew what an extraordinary man he was, a gladiator, a visionary, a trailblazer one that lived life to the max. His enthusiasm was infectious, he was charming, courageous, generous and a beacon of light. He demonstrated time and time again to us all to have faith in yourself, dream, and to believe anything is possible. I think those that knew Zef would agree that there will never be another, he certainly broke the mould.”

Zef Eisenberg shares a joke with his team
Pendine Sands, South Wales, 18 May 2019: Zef Eisenberg shares a joke with his team

A bit more about Zef

At the age of 16, he decided to take up bodybuilding, and after a year of hard work and family encouragement, he became junior bodybuilding champion of Great Britain. To keep in shape, he needed to take protein powder but at that time it was quite costly, so he decided to start a business making his own. He studied for a BSc in nutrition in his own time and developed a winning formula in 1995 under the brand name Maximuscle. It was used by many bodybuilders, athletes and sportspeople throughout the UK and Maximuscle soon became the leading product in the marketplace. The brand ultimately attracted the attention of the multinational pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline, who later acquired the business from Eisenberg.

Zef Eisenberg's Porsche 911 Turbo S
Pendine Sands, South Wales, 18 May 2019: Zef Eisenberg’s Porsche 911 Turbo S cools down on the beach after his first run

It is perhaps not surprising that most of Eisenberg’s achievements were in the field of speed, on both two- and four-wheel vehicles. Eisenberg’s infectious enthusiasm, and his unique ability to explain in layman’s terms the most complex subjects, led ITV to approach him for a new TV programme, aptly named Speed Freaks, focusing on the design, build and engineering of extreme cars.
But he was also big on education and helping others to reach for their goals in a variety of fields. For instance, he was instrumental in helping to raise the funds necessary to build a state-of-the-art skate park on the island of Guernsey, his home since 2005. He supported the sport of badminton on Guernsey and through his MADMAX team he also backed a young hillclimb star.

A satisfied Zef Eisenberg
Pendine Sands, South Wales, 18 May 2019: A satisfied Zef Eisenberg after his first batch of records were in the bag

He also sponsored and promoted the ‘Emergency Hero of Guernsey’ award, which recognises the invaluable work of medics, helicopter crews, surgeons and intensive care staff, and was central to a charity project that created the largest children’s playground in the Channel Islands. In October 2019, the Royal Automobile Club awarded him the Simms Medal in recognition of his outstanding contribution to motoring innovation.

Zef Eisenberg sits on his record breaking motorcycle with the Simms Medal
Royal Automobile Club, Pall Mall, London, October 2019: A proud Zef Eisenberg sits on his record breaking motorcycle with the Simms Medal

Over the past decade, Zef amassed over 90 British, World, UKTA, ACU and Guinness speed records with bikes, cars, and quads.

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