Dr. Iain Corness

Thursday, 24 July 2014 14:52

Hungarian GP this weekend

As a racing venue, Hungary has a long history, with its first GP run in 1906, and regular events in Budapest since 1926.  Built with state backing, and laid out in a natural amphitheater, the Hungaroring opened in 1986 and attracted an estimated 200,000 spectators.  Though the event was well organized, and the hosts very appreciative, it was felt that the 4 km Hungaroring had been laid out more in the style of a twisty street circuit rather than a bespoke road track.  There were few opportunities for overtaking, though things were eased from 1989 when a tight corner was by-passed and the lap distance became slightly less than 4 km.  However, it remains a circuit that is not high on any of the drivers’ lists, unless you are after a piece of quick action behind the pits, as the Hungarian government actually erected (nice word in the sex scene) some mobile brothels a couple of years ago (sponsored by Viagra?).  I think they are still in use today!


After the German GP, will we get the same sort of racing?  Find out this weekend.  I will be watching from my favorite roost at Jameson’s Irish Pub on Soi AR (next to Nova Park) and the racing begins at 7 p.m.  We get there early around 6 p.m. and have something to eat and wet the whistle before the racing begins, while watching the dedicated F1 channel which has no adverts during the race, and is so much better than the others.  Why don’t you join me at around 6 p.m. for a natter and some food (the Sunday roasts are great value) and amber liquids and then sit down for the Grand Prix.

Thursday, 24 July 2014 14:51

What did we learn from the German GP?

Well, we learned at the first corner that Felipe Massa (Williams) is still the unlucky driver, being forced out by young Magnussen who confused excitement with (lack of) experience and ruined the Brazilian’s race, as well as his own.  He forgot my old adage - you never win the race at the first corner, you only lose the race at the first corner!  He will learn, especially as he had to go straight into the pits to change a front wheel.

We also saw that many of the drivers had been eating Brave Pills for breakfast, with plenty of wheel banging/side pod action, more usually seen in saloon car racing.

We also saw that those amazingly contorted front wings are for increasing the impression ratio, not for aerodynamic purposes after Hamilton (Mercedes) lost the end from his and still set the fastest lap of the race.  Obviously the aerodynamicist is superfluous!

So to the race.  Starting from pole, this was Rosberg’s (Mercedes) race to lose, rather than having to fight for a win, with Hamilton starting almost from the rear of the grid.  He did the job so easily that he was very rarely seen by the TV cameras - he was just out in front and cruising.  Hamilton drove very well, not averse to shouldering the opposition out of the way to come third.

Unflustered drive by Valtteri Bottas (Williams) into a very strong second place.  Hamilton may have caught him at the end, but he was not going to take the place from him.

The driver formerly known as The Finger brought his Red Bull home in fourth after some thrilling dices with both Ferrari drivers Alonso and Raikkonen.  Alonso showed his determination for the entire race, whilst Raikkonen showed flashes of his former brilliance.  Alonso fifth and Raikkonen 11th says it all.  With the new head of the Ferrari racing team Marco Mattiaci, I will not be surprised to see the Finn take early retirement.

After being forced off the track to avoid Massa at the first corner, Ricciardo ended up in 16th, but fought his way back through the field to sixth with many heart in the mouth battles on the way.  The young Aussie is not short on talent or cojones!  In typical fashion, he said after the race, “That was awesome fun, one of my most enjoyable races I’ve had.”

Another solid drive from Hulkenberg (Force India) to finish seventh ahead of the McLarens of Button and the recovered Magnussen from his first lap mistake.

Understatement of the weekend came from Adrian Sutil (Sauber) who spun onto the grid straight, saying, “There’s something wrong with the car!”  However, his team said it was a “wrong driver procedure”, which is usually race speak for “he accidentally hit the off switch!”

Another driver having car problems was Daniil Kvyat (Toro Rosso) whose car burst into flames with excitement, which the crew put down to a “drive train failure” and Renault (engine supplier) put down to an “ignition problem leading to combustion of the unburnt fuel in the exhaust pipe.”  Right.  Yes.

Star of the show?  For me it was Alonso and not Hamilton.  Alonso managed to fight cleanly, where Hamilton was barging.

The next race is this weekend in Hungary.  Let us hope for more excitement, as Germany was an exciting Grand prix.

Thursday, 24 July 2014 14:49

Wireless recharging by Daimler/BMW

One of the next steps on the way to perfect electric drive and plug-in hybrid vehicles is wireless battery charging.  Daimler and BMW have now agreed on jointly developing and implementing one common technology.

Wireless charging of the battery will make the handling of electric drive and plug-in hybrid vehicles even easier.  Mercedes-Benz will commence fleet testing of this “unplugged” technology with the S 500 Plug-in hybrid soon, in order to develop a real S-Class solution in recharging the high voltage battery in terms of comfort and ease of operating in the near future.

The system consists of two components: a secondary coil integrated into the under tray of the car and a primary coil integrated into a floor plate that can be placed on a garage floor for instance.  Electrical energy is transmitted contact-free without the need for a cable, at a power rate of 3.6 kW and with a degree of efficiency of 90 percent.

Wireless charge.Wireless charge.

Trials of the cordless charging system with BMW’s high-tech i8 sports car have allowed a full charge in less than two hours, and with a charge-rate of 3.6 kilowatts, BMW says an average hybrid can be charged in less than three hours.

With further development, a rate of up to 7kW could be permitted, cutting charge times even further.

A WiFi connection between the charge point and the car assists the driver with positioning the vehicle easily, and once parked, charging starts at the touch of a button.

While the vehicle is refuelling, its charge-status and time to full-charge can be monitored remotely with the use of a smart-phone application.

Thursday, 24 July 2014 14:48

Toyota manage 698 mpg at Nurburgring

A standard Toyota Prius Plug-in completed a lap of Nurburgring, amongst the usual daily traffic and returned 698 mpg.

On paper, both the speed requirement and the circuit length (12.9 miles) put the feat within the all-electric EV range Toyota quotes for Prius Plug-in, performance designed to meet the day-to-day driving demands of urban commuters.  In theory, the distance could be covered without a drop of petrol being used.

Prius at Nurburgring.Prius at Nurburgring.

Motoring journalist and Japanese car expert Joe Clifford was tasked with the driving duties, taking the wheel of a standard Prius Plug-in he has recently upgraded with the addition of TRD parts - styling rather than performance elements that improved the car’s appearance rather than made it more fuel-efficient.

In dry, breezy conditions, he recorded 698 mpg, completing his lap in 20 minutes and 59 seconds.  This far outstrips the car’s official combined cycle figure of 134 mpg; in fact the Toyota used less than five tablespoons of fuel to do the job.

The technology that made this feat possible is a development of Toyota’s full hybrid system that matches a 1.8-liter Atkinson cycle petrol engine with a compact, rechargeable lithium-ion battery.  The battery’s performance and excellent energy density means the car can be driven further and at higher speeds on electric power alone than the standard Prius.

Jaguar Land Rover is developing an intelligent self-learning car which will recognize the driver, check their schedule, plot a route and adjust the seat - all before they open the door.

Jaguar Land Rover director of research and technology, Dr Wolfgang Epple said the goal is to create a car which offers a more personalized experience for the driver and to minimize distractions in an effort to help prevent accidents.

“Up until now most self-learning car research has only focused on traffic or navigation prediction,” Dr Epple said “We want to take this a significant step further.”

It is another application of smartphone technology operated by the driver’s smart-phone making the handshake with the car’s own system called Smart Assistant, which can then access the driver’s calendar and use the information for navigation and reminders.

If you have logged that you have a meeting time the Smart Assistant will not only work out the best route to travel, but will call ahead if it looks like you are running late.

This technology in the car’s inbuilt computer incorporates the latest machine learning and artificial intelligence techniques.  As a result, the car will recognize the driver by their smart phone when it is within close enough proximity to pick up its WiFi.  A new learning algorithm will allow the car to remember the seat, radio, climate and mirror settings, and adjust these to suit the driver.

The software also learns the owner’s driving style and when Auto Adaptive Cruise Control is enabled the car will mimic the style and remember the preferred distance the driver likes to keep from the car ahead, as well as the type of acceleration they find most comfortable.

“By developing a learning function for Adaptive Cruise Control,” said Dr Epple, “it is technology concepts like the self-learning car that will ensure any future intelligent car remains fun and rewarding to drive as we move closer to more autonomous driving over the next 10 years.”

Jaguar Land Rover says that the self-learning car will even be able to recognize the passengers from their smart-phones, and take their preferences into consideration when setting functions such as climate and media.

The future is now!

Thursday, 24 July 2014 14:46

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what car was this?  GRP body on a tubular steel chassis.  It had one door, one headlight and one wiper.  It had a chrome handle in the middle of the rear instead of a reverse gear - you just pulled it to wherever you wanted, as it weighed under 60 kg.  Clue: it was only 135 cm long!  This car was made in the Isle of Man and was the Peel P50.

So to this week.  What 1916 American small car was given by Thailand’s King Rama VI to his nephew Prince Chula Chakrabongse?

For the Automania free beer this week, be the first correct answer to email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Thursday, 24 July 2014 11:26

BCCT returns to the Dusit Thani Pattaya

The British Chamber of Commerce Thailand (BCCT) hosted a joint chambers networking evening at the Dusit Thani Pattaya, with the vast Napalai ballroom able to accommodate the numbers of networkers from the various chambers, including the Australian Chamber, the German Chamber, the American Chamber and the South African Chamber and the Automotive Focus Group.

Thursday, 24 July 2014 10:55

Are cheap drugs really a bargain?

The Thai community must be very poorly.  Well, if you go by the number of pharmacies in my street, you would imagine so.  The only businesses with more outlets are beauty salons and massage parlors.

With so many pharmacies, the only way they can compete with each other is on price.  So where do they get cheaper drugs in the first place?

A big money spinner are the drugs which can keep you in a state of perpetual priapism, a continuing (and painful) male erection and the term was coined after the Greek god Priapus who is shown in paintings to have a central member like a third leg.

Cheap pills for Erectile Dysfunction (ED) that seem too good to be true, are usually just that - too good to be true!  The chances are very high that they are counterfeit.

One of the patients showed me a box purporting to be genuine brand name Cialis tablets, which were not having the desired effect.  I was immediately suspicious as the box was not all that well printed.  I was quite sure they were counterfeit when I read the Patient Information slip.  The English grammar was incorrect, and there were spelling mistakes.  Eli Lilly, the ‘real’ manufacturer does not send out misspelled literature with their product.

Eli Lilly’s website on Cialis confirms that there is fake Cialis in the marketplace.  The website suggests you ask yourself these questions; any “yes” answers could mean that the Cialis being sold may be fake:

Is the price so much lower than the price at the hospital pharmacy that it seems too good to be true?

Does the pharmacy offer “soft tab” or “fast dissolve” Cialis?  (Cialis only comes in tablets.  There is no such thing as “soft tab” or “fast dissolve” Cialis).

Does your local pharmacy offer “generic Cialis” or a drug with a name that is similar to Cialis?  (Such products have not have been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness - they could be harmful.)

The World Health Organization puts the annual amount of counterfeit drugs sales at something like $35-40 billion per year.  No wonder I (and you) get so many offers of drugs through the internet.  That’s a very large pie.

The World Health Organization also estimates that one in three drugs on the worldwide market today is counterfeit.  Sometimes the fake drugs contain toxic substances from which you can die.

Pfizer’s laboratories analyze the fakes and a representative stated, “We’ve seen boric acid, we’ve seen heavy metals, we’ve seen road paint, we’ve also seen floor wax to coat the pills and give them a shine.  Obviously, they are detrimental to anyone’s health.”

It is not just Eli Lilly that is targeted.  Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer (yes chaps, the makers of the Blue Diamonds of happiness) estimates its annual losses to counterfeit drug sales at $2 billion.

However, this is actually a serious situation.  If specific drugs are only available through pharmacies, on the prescription of a doctor, is it safe to just buy over the counter (or the internet), without any doctor’s advice?

The American Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says, “Patients who buy prescription drugs from websites operating outside the law are at increased risk of suffering life-threatening adverse events, such as side effects from inappropriately prescribed medications, dangerous drug interactions, contaminated drugs, and impure or unknown ingredients found in unapproved drugs.”

According to WHO, drugs commonly counterfeited include antibiotics, antimalarials, hormones, anti-diabetic medications and steroids.  Increasingly, anticancer and antiviral drugs are also faked.  And you can add to that, the ‘Blue Diamonds’ and all of the Indian knock-offs.  Never forget the phrase “Caveat emptor” (Let the buyer beware).

If you receive a spam e-mail from someone who you don’t know, offering you specific pharmaceuticals at a cheap price, that should be enough for you to go no further.  If your local pharmacies will offer you ‘name brand’ medication that is supposedly prescription only at a very cheap price, that should ring alarm bells in your head too.

Get your medications on a doctor’s prescription from a big pharmacy you can trust.  Or suffer the consequences - which can be quite catastrophic if you are diabetic, for example.

Thursday, 17 July 2014 11:41

So now it’s the German GP

This Sunday is the German GP, which is being held at Hockenheim, not Nurburgring.  It was opened in 1939, 15 miles from Heidelberg, and was used for German national car and motorcycle racing.  In 1965/6 it was uprated to a design by John Hugenholz because one end was lost when an autobahn was built.  The resulting 6.7 km long circuit remained blindingly quick for most of its length, with a slow section in the ‘stadium’ (i.e. grandstand) area, similar in concept to the arena course at Silverstone.

Thursday, 17 July 2014 11:39

Selecting your new car - heart or head?

A new study shows that our heart rules our head when it comes to buying a car.  While we want to believe we are acting rationally, the report shows much of the decision is actually based on emotions.

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