The millionaire founder of Maximuscle has been revealed as the driver who died trying to break a British land speed record yesterday.
Zef Eisenberg was killed when his car ‘veered off the runway and flipped’ at Elvington Airfield, a former RAF base to the east of York, on Thursday afternoon.
The 47-year-old from Guernsey, who launched the supplement brand in 1995, had previously been involved in a 230mph crash at the same track in 2016, which nearly killed him.
Eisenberg’s family confirmed to the BBC it was him who had died as a source revealed he had ‘veered off the runway and flipped’ the car while chasing the record for the British ‘flying kilometre’.
The race allows drivers a rolling start – so they can get up to speed ahead of the actual kilometre – before they hurtle down the course twice to get an average time.
His last Facebook post shows his Madmax 1200hp Porsche Sand Racer car refuelling on Wednesday, with the caption: ‘Late night testing….for the next stage of MADness….’
He added: ‘After it’s 239.6mph run at Vmax, let’s turn up the boost and see what the beast can deliver… updates to follow’.
Zef Eisenberg (pictured with Keanu Reeves in April) was killed when his car ‘veered off the runway and flipped’ at Elvington Airfield, a former RAF base to the east of York, on Thursday afternoon
Eisenberg’s family confirmed to the BBC it was him who had died as a source revealed he had ‘veered off the runway and flipped’ the car
The driver died while trying to complete a land speed record. A car is seen on the back of a tow truck
His last Facebook post shows his Madmax team car refuelling on Wednesday with the caption: ‘Late night testing….for the next stage of MADness….’
Officers wearing face coverings search the area where the car crashed during an attempt at the British land speed record yesterday
Eisenberg, who has a Guinness World Record and about 50 British and world land speed records, was well known for presenting ITV4’s Speed Freaks and The Bike Show.
The former bodybuilder’s 2016 crash at Elvington Airfield nearly killed him as he drove a jet turbine-powered motorbike at 230mph to try to set a new world record.
He was riding a £350,000 bike – the fastest of its kind in the world – built by the Madmax team he funded with cash from the £162million sale of Maximuscle in 2011.
How a bodybuilder made millions by getting into the fitness industry before turning his attention to speed
Zef Eisenberg was originally a gym instructor, nutritionist and herbalist, with expertise in the health industry who started his company as it was about to undergo rapid growth.
In 1995 he started Maximuscle, the only UK-based sports nutrition supplier at a time when the American market was already saturated – but still growing, as the health movement gripped the USA.
Eisenberg already had a cult following when, as a competitor himself, he wrote and self-published an expose dispelling myths on what products worked and which did not, selling 24,000 copies.
The book, in 1993, earned him the £3,000 that he initially used to set up Maximuscle in 1995. He never borrowed a penny but working ‘stupid hours’, he made it a market leader in Britain.
The creatine product, which aids performance, was used by England and Arsenal football teams, and traded off a reputation for including nothing that would make professional athletes fail drug tests.
He built it into Britain’s largest supplier of sports nutritional products, which was sold to Darwin Private Equity in 2007 for £75million but Mr Eisenbrg remained the largest private shareholder.
In 2011, he cashed in, getting £162million for his stake from drugs company GlaxoSmithKline, and originally agreed to stay on as a consultant.
However, he later left Maximuscle altogether and launched a £150million Dragon’s Den-style health fund, hearing pitches from entrepreneurs.
The incident left him with 11 broken bones and he was presumed dead but overcome the devastating injuries and was back at the racetrack for the anniversary of the crash.
A finger tip search was being conducted of the runway at Elvington today as the investigation into his death continued.
The wreckage of the high powered sports car was removed on Thursday night by police on a low loader truck for forensic examination.
A security guard who was on duty at the time said: ‘I have seen a lot of these record attempts. This is the worst crash I have seen here for years – worse than Richard Hammond.
‘The car just veered off the runway and flipped. The next thing I knew was all these police cars rolled up.’
Health and Safety officials from York Council arrived on site today to liaise with police searching the runway for clues.
An eight-strong team of specialist officers were searching the runway next to Second World War green huts.
Flights are expected to be grounded while the probe continues on the strip, according to one health and safety official.
He added: ‘We are just here to see if this a health and safety enforcement area or not. Richard Hammond was a lucky fellow. These are risks you take when you take things to extreme.
‘I know there’s a thrill in being scared but it’s a thrill you would want to avoid most of the time. I guess some people are addicted to it for the adrenaline buzz.’
Eisenberg, who got divorced in 2018 and is believe to have two children, was also a herbalist, personal trainer and nutritionist, and founded the Maximuscle company in 1995 with just £3,000 of his own money.
He built it into Britain’s largest supplier of sports nutritional products, which was sold to Darwin Private Equity in 2007 for £75million but Eisenbrg remained the largest private shareholder.
In 2011 he cashed in, getting £162million for his stake from drugs company GlaxoSmithKline, and originally agreed to stay on as a consultant.
But he later left Maximuscle altogether and launched a £150million Dragon’s Den-style health fund, hearing pitches from entrepreneurs.
Eisenberg opened up to Goodwood Road & Racing about being on a motorbike racing at 200mph, saying: ‘At 234mph it was still accelerating. Rapidly.
‘But we were running out of runway, and I couldn’t hold on any longer. It took me three years of gym work to get to that speed. At 220mph the disc on my vertebrae was popping out. There’s so much force being put on the neck.’
The adrenaline junkie said his team put a strap running from his helmet to his body to ‘stop his head from snapping backwards’.
He added: ‘That allowed me to increase the speed without my neck compressing and popping out a disc each time. It’s not for the faint of heart.’
Eisenberg, who has a Guinness World Record and about 50 British and world land speed records, was well known for presenting ITV4’s Speed Freaks and The Bike Show
North Yorkshire Police said they were called out to a ‘serious collision’ shortly after 4.30pm
The former bodybuilder’s 2016 crash at Elvington Airfield nearly killed him as he drove a jet turbine-powered motorbike at 230mph to try to set a new world record
The incident left him with 11 broken bones and he was presumed dead but overcome the devastating injuries and was back at the racetrack for the anniversary of his crash
Eisenberg opened up to Goodwood Road & Racing about being on a motorbike racing at 200mph, saying: ‘At 234mph it was still accelerating. Rapidly’
Eisenberg grew up in Finchley, north London, and left school at 15 after taking his GCSEs at University College School. He soon founded Maximuscle, which rocketed to the top of the sports nutrition industry.
What is the British Land Speed Record and which one was Zef Eisenberg trying to break?
There are various British Land Speed Records based on the surface, the type of vehicle and how the speed is calculated.
The one Zef Eisenberg was trying to break was the 207.6mph set by Tony Densham on October 3, 1970, in a Ford-powered dragster.
This was over a Flying Kilometre course.
This means the driver goes a kilometre with a rolling start, and then repeats the run a second time in the opposite direction.
The final result is the average speed across both runs.
Other recent records include:
- October 2013: Electric car speed record – Paul Drayson hit 205mph to set the electric car land speed record.
- May 2014: Electric bike speed record – Sam Green at Elvington Airfield hit 105mph on a Saietta R bike.
- May 2018: Sand speed record on a motorbike – Zef Eisenberg at Pendine Sands hit 201.5mph on a supercharged Suzuki Hayabusa bike.
- May 2019: Sand speed record in a car – Zef Eisenberg at Pendine Sands in Wales hit 210.332mph in a custom Porsche 911 Turbo
He lived in Saint Peter Port in Guernsey where he help set up the largest concrete skatepark and largest adventure playground on the island. Only last month the racer unveiled the Eisenberg V8 – a a 3000cc V8 engine motorbike.
After earning his first £1million, Eisenberg told the FT his secret was to be ‘endlessly curious and (being) not afraid of commitment, hard work and trying to resolve things’.
He added: ‘My childhood was difficult but I learnt that the only way to survive is to work your way out of it, and if you fall down you have to pick yourself up again.’
North Yorkshire Police said in a statement today: ‘Shortly after 4.30pm on 1 October 2020 we were called to a serious vehicle incident at Elvington Airfield near York.
‘The incident occurred during a British Land Speed record attempt and the driver, 47 year-old Zef Eisenberg tragically died at the scene.’
Motorsport UK said it was working with the police and event organiser to probe the tragic incident.
In a statement, the body said: ‘Motorsport UK is deeply saddened to announce that a fatal accident occurred this afternoon at Elvington Airfield during a British Land Speed Record attempt.
‘Motorsport UK, together with the event organiser and the local police, has begun a full investigation into the circumstances of the incident.
‘Further information will be provided once the initial findings of the investigation are available. Our thoughts are with the driver’s family, who have been informed, the organisers of the event, and other members of the motorsport community present.’
Last year Eisenberg beat the ‘flying mile’ record held by actor Idris Elba, who took the title in 2015 after it stood for 88 years when Sir Malcolm Campbell reached 174mph in his iconic aero-engined Blue Bird.
Mr Eisenberg had already broken the sand speed record on a motorbike and added the flying mile record at 182mph (293km/h).
But his attempts to top 200mph were thwarted after the engine on his Mad Max 400bhp supercharged Suzuki Hayabusa blew up.
He averaged 182.4mph over two miles on the beach in Carmarthenshire.
A flying mile takes the average speed over two mile-long runs, with a mile to get up to speed.
North Yorkshire Police were again on the scene of the crash on Friday morning as their investigations continue
Elvington Airfield was the scene of a crash involving former Top Gear presenter Hammond in 2006
Actor Idris Elba achieved 180.361mph in a 650hp Bentley Continental Super Sport twin-turbo W12 in 2015. But Eisenberg needed only a single run in both directions on the to surpass them both, with a rear tyre that was found to be falling apart after the first run.
Elvington was an RAF station until 1992 and has become a popular motorsports venue since entering private ownership. It has hosted dozens of world record attempts and is also used as a filming location.
On Sunday, Jason Liversidge, who has motor neurone disease, set a world speed record in his custom-made electric wheelchair.
And last week Andy Jennings, 28, from Swindon, set the Guinness World Record for the fastest wheelie bin, reaching speeds of 45.35mph in his homemade motorised bin.
It was the scene of a horror crash involving former Top Gear presenter Hammond in 2006. The 50-year-old was left in a coma for two weeks and with brain injuries after crashing a jet-powered car.
The privately-owned venue, which is an active airfield, is also a facility for driving, driver training, filming and other testing purposes for professional organisations.
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