If you’re going to call your race team MADMAX, then you had better deliver in a big way. There can be no doubting that team founder and record-holding racer Zef Eisenberg has done just that with his completely bonkers MADMAX ‘Street-fighter’ Turbine Motorbike.
The MADMAX Turbine ‘Street‑fighter’ is a jet‑powered two‑wheeled lunatic
Walking up to the bike, it is enormous. And I suppose that shouldn’t be much of a surprise, considering Mr Eisenberg has managed to engineer a Rolls-Royce C20B Turbine engine from an Augusta 109 helicopter into the thing.
I can’t help but smirk when I read the polite sign sat upon the seat of the terrifying machine which reads ‘Please don’t sit on the bike’. Whether placed there sincerely, or not, you need to be a very special or a very insane person to want to voluntarily rest your rear on this bike.
As I crouch beside the black and menacing machine, the man who does sit on it arrives with a confident and excitable smile. “The engine came out of the factory at Rolls-Royce with 420hp. But we’ve increased that to 560hp by using a water-meth injection system”.
Zef Eisenberg then quickly begins giving me the full shakedown on his pride and joy. He speaks with an endearing charm and more than a touch of eccentricity. Exactly as you want all Speed Kings to be.
“How it works is, if you put too much fuel into the turbine. You'll increase the heat. It will melt the blades and in three seconds, you'd have molten turbine blades coming out the exhaust. So, we dump a litre of water meth into the inlet every 10 seconds, to keep the blades cool enough to put more fuel in to make that ridiculous amount of power.”
Ridiculous is the right word, and as I keep learning more about this bike, my first reaction is to laugh in Zef’s face. Both in disbelief and in total terror.
“It makes 1,000 pounds of torque through the rear wheel. So, we only need one gear. 0-250mph. This particular bike has got the 234mph world record. It's the fastest street-fighter in the world. Meaning upright bars, no fairing. That record was done in a standing mile, not Bonneville where you have five miles. It was painful. Very painful.”
I ask Zef to elaborate on what it feels like to hold on to a motorcycle at that speed.
“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.”
Again. I laugh and shake my head. Zef is a huge mountain of a man too. He was a competitive bodybuilder and sports nutrition entrepreneur in a former life, so if anyone knows about the importance of gym work; it’s him.
“Because of that, going forward, we had to install a strap from the helmet to a climbing harness around my groin to stop my head from snapping backwards. 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.”
“A turbine is like having a giant turbo. It's got one and a half seconds of lag, that's how it feels. You apply full throttle and nothing happens, and then suddenly it goes full power mode, rear wheel spins, it goes from 0-250mph in two seconds in the burnout and destroys the tire. So, it has got to be progressive.”
I told you this bike delivers in a big way. And what makes it even more insane is the fact it is 100 per cent road legal. Let that sink in. A turbine powered 250mph motorbike capable of braking your back can be used to pop to the shops, if you fancy it. Not that you ever would.
Fitted with lights, indicators, and even a number plate that reads ‘747’ – nice turbine link there – the bike, despite its size, could be mistaken for a slightly modified Naked at a glance. The real giveaway that there is something special lurking inside is the methanol bottles either side of the large front tank. An important part of the engineering which will need adapting for Zef’s next record attempt.
“The plan is to put a proper aerodynamic fairing on it and find the right time to get to Bonneville. The key thing for Bonneville means we are going to need a bigger water-methanol tank. It's very hot there, over 100 degrees. These Turbines are designed to operate 20-30 thousand feet in the air where it's much colder. They like really, really cold air. The hot air they don't like it, which is why we use water-methanol to create cold, dense air artificially. If we can get a big enough tank, at least 5-litres worth, then we'll keep the temperatures safe.”
“The entire front tank is 32 litres of Kerosene Jet1A fuel. We'll then have to make heavyweight saddlebags around it. The water-meth is contained on the side tanks either side, and in part of the frame, but that's only about three litres.”
It’s obvious that this bike takes some serious engineering know-how, especially when you consider the dangers of jet fuel, turbine engines, and going break-neck speeds (literally) on two wheels.
“We're all Rolls-Royce trained technicians, so we can strip the turbines down. We've got four spare turbines too to get parts from. We realised that we needed to get properly trained now because you're playing with stuff that is doing 50,000rpm. The blades move at twice the speed of a bullet. If they're not maintained they are very, very dangerous.”
Not surprisingly, Zef also holds the record for surviving the world’s fasted motorcycle accident. In September 2016 Eisenberg crashed on the bike at 234 mph at Elvington Airfield, Yorkshire. He was presumed dead on the scene and airlifted to Hospital. He broke 11 bones in the crash, including his pelvis, hip and femur.Incredibly, and a testament to the man’s willpower, drive and ambition; on the anniversary of the crash, he returned to Elvington Airway to race on the same bike, after being told he may never walk again. Remarkable.
“This is the fourth time we're here. It's a great pleasure every time. But this time, the bike is in its most powerful form. It has never been more powerful, ever, than it is now. We've just had a new turbine put into it, which allows us to ramp up the power on the expectation that we'll be doing another full speed run, maybe next year.”
“It was one of these pub ideas which we thought of years ago where you put a turbine into a motorbike and after the beers you get back to the day job. But with us, we're mad and stupid enough to go ahead with these ideas and then you've got so much skin in the game, you're so committed to it, you carry on and you finish it.”
And with that, I simply shake Mr Eisenberg’s hand, thank him, and walk away in disbelief. If we were celebrating ‘Speed Kings – Motorsports Record Breakers’ at the 2019 Festival of Speed presented by Mastercard, then I met the king of kings. And he was as mad as the court jester.
Photography by James Lynch and Pete Summers.
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