NSR V4 powered 1988 ELF5 – With Phil Aynsley

Some bikes can’t be mistaken for any other machine and that is certainly the case with the ELF series of race bikes produced from 1977 though to the 1988 ELF5 seen here.

1988 Elf5 Racer

1988 ELF5 Racer

The chassis was the work of Andre de Cortanze, a design engineer working for Renault’s race department in the mid ‘70s. Picked by Francois Guiter (head of marketing for Elf) to develop a bike using his innovative ideas.

1988 Elf5 Racer

Early ELF chassis were designed by Andre de Cortanze

The first design was the 1977 TZ750 powered ELF X. This caught Honda’s attention and in 1979 they signed an agreement with Elf to provide works RSC endurance motors for a new design.

1988 Elf5 Racer

The earliest ELFX used a TZ750 powerplant

The ELFe was raced in the World Endurance Championship from 1981 to 1983. A streamlined version, the ELF R, was used to set six world speed records in 1986.

1988 Elf5 Racer

A less mainstream steering system was adopted on the ELF2 and was replaced in the next generation Elf2A

Elf now turned to GP racing with the introduction of the ELF2. This used a steering system that had the rider pushing and pulling the bars forwards and back – not a terribly successful idea! It was soon redesigned into the ELF2A with steering similar to the ELF X.

1988 Elf5 Racer

The ELF5 was powered by the NSR V4 but is not fitted with carbs as pictured

1988 Elf5 Racer

The NSR V4 in the ELF5 chassis

Cortanze left to join the Peugeot Rally team, leaving his assistant Dan Trema to continue his work. Serge Rosset took over managing the team (now the ROC-Elf team) and together they produced the Honda NS500 powered ELF3 for 1986 season.

The Elf racers saw some success with ninth in 1986 and fourth in 1987

The Elf racers saw some success with ninth in 1986 and fourth in 1987

Rider Ron Haslam had some successes, finishing 9th in the championship and winning the Macau GP. He did better the following year on the ELF4 coming 4th in the title chase.

1988 Elf5 Racer

The ELF5 Racer front end

1988 Elf5 Racer

1988 Elf5 Racer

Single-sided front end

1988 saw the ELF5 debut. It used a 1987 version of the NSR V4 (the ’88 not being ready in time) and is the bike I photographed (the bike didn’t have carburettors fitted at the time). Honda also supplied the Nissin front brakes. Haslam ended up 11th in this last year of competition for the team.

1988 Elf5 Racer

The Elf single-sided swingarm was a collaboration with Honda

1988 Elf5 Racer

Rear sprocket, single-sided swingarm assembly and wheel mount

Honda’s Pro Arm single-sided swingarm was a lasting result of their collaboration with Elf.

1988 Elf5 Racer

1988 ELF5 Racer

1988 Elf5 Racer

1988 Elf5 Racer

1988 ELF5 Racer

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