Dr. Iain Corness

Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:47

Monaco Grand Prix this weekend

Following on from the win for Nico Rosberg and another 1-2 for Mercedes in Spain, is there anyone willing to hazard a guess for the winner at Monaco this weekend? With the limitation in passing opportunities round the Monegasque houses, pole position becomes very important. The most critical part of this Grand Prix will then happen on the Saturday. And that’s qualifying. He who is on pole, has a greater than 75 percent chance of winning. So who will be on P1? So far, all the money is on Hamilton, despite Rosberg’s pole in Spain.

Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:46

An ‘electrifying’ Monaco

Tripped over the results from the Formula E Prix which was staged at Monaco a couple of weeks ago. Reading through the results it is almost all made up of ‘failed’ F1 drivers! Read through and see what I mean.

Sébastien Buemi

Lucas di Grassi

Nelson Piquet Jnr

Sam Bird

Jérôme D’Ambrosio

Nicolas Prost

Stéphane Sarrazin

Scott Speed

Charles Pic

Antonio Felix da Costa

Nick Heidfeld

Jarno Trulli

Karun Chandhok

Vitantonio Liuzzi

Jean-Eric Vergne

Salvador Duran

Loïc Duval

Daniel Abt

Jaime Alguersuari

I watched their ‘highlights’ and am afraid I was totally turned off by the whizzers. You think the current F1 cars have a dreadful sound, these Formula E cars reminded me of Electrolux vacuum cleaners, and driven by ‘also-rans’.

Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:44

BMW looking at the niche markets

BMW has indicated their intention to explore different market segments of the auto industry, but not at the expense of the 3 Series and 7 Series.

However, it could be said that BMW has actually too many choices in the marketplace.

Many of BMW’s niche models are based on its passenger sedan line-up, such as the 3 Series/4 Series, which has expanded to six variants - 3 Series sedan, Touring, Gran Turismo, and the 4 Series coupe, convertible and Gran Coupe - but SUVs such as the X3 and X5 have also spawned coupe-style versions in the X4 and X6 respectively.

BMW senior vice-president for Asia-Pacific and South Africa, Hendrik von Kuenheim said model proliferation is discussed “every day” at the company and has proven successful in a number of markets to date.

2016 BMW 3 Series.2016 BMW 3 Series.

“The 3 Series GT - 10 years ago it was never even discussed,” he said. “But in the Asian markets it has been very successful. It has a business class feel in the rear seat and it has been very well accepted in some markets. In other markets they are not ready for that now.”

“There is a point when there is no more business case. When we think, what could we have done with that money, could we do something more successful with the money?”

Admitting that some models were more successful than others, von Kuenheim hinted that some “may disappear” in the future but did not go into detail.

He did, however, hint at future X-badged SUV models on the way, which will include the seven-seat X7 due in 2017/18 and could extend to a smaller sibling to the X4, dubbed X2.

“If we don’t offer choice, you might start losing. The question is: what is the next big niche? There are two more X models coming in the very near future, just because the consumer trend has gone that way.”

BMW last week released details of the mid-life update to its top selling 3 Series range, and while he praised rival Mercedes-Benz’s latest C-Class, von Kuenheim said the refreshed 3 Series range will compete well against it.

“Mercedes has a fresh product. It’s an appealing car. The good thing is, Mercedes is back. It’s … much better when you have a sharp competitor. It took them a long time to come back but they are back. There is nothing wrong with that because it keeps you on your toes.”

He continued, “I am very confident … I believe we still have the ‘ultimate driving machine’. We have a good facelift and some good upgrades and we will take the fight to Mercedes.”

Von Kuenheim said BMW’s luxury flagship - the 7 Series sedan - would continue to be the showcase for its latest technological advancements, despite a consumer shift towards luxury SUVs.

He said the rollout of comfort and safety advances in cars is so rapid that a company might only have exclusivity on the innovation “if you are really lucky for six months” but added that the large sedan would always showcase new technology first.

“The 7 Series will always be the technology leader,” he said. “We will get a lot more frequent updates on the cars as new technology comes. It will always be the pinnacle, as it is for Mercedes S-Class, which is also a bloody good car. That is the total competence which is available in the German motor industry.”

Despite the rhetoric there is no ignoring that the Mercedes range looks like today, while the BMW offerings look like dated face lifted old body styles.

Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:42

Ford wrong foots the hot hatch makers

Ford has revealed the full Aussie price list for the new Mustang ahead of it hitting showrooms in Australia in December. The starting price for the 2.3 liter EcoBoost Fastback, is A$ 44,990 with the automatic variant costing an additional A$2500.

That price undercuts many hot hatches such as the Volkswagen Golf GTI, Subaru WRX STI and Renault Megane RS265.

Thursday, 21 May 2015 10:39

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked you to look at this photo. What is it?

It is the Ryno, a sort of Segway style unicycle. Has a top speed of 16 kph according to the manufacturer. The history is interesting. Tony Ozrelic (Ryno’s co-founder) was an engineer and inventor with a keen interest in self-balancing machines. Thanks to an online tutorial Tony posted about how to build a Segway from off the shelf parts and plywood and an email from Chris that said it might only take a few weeks to write the software, Chris Hoffmann and Tony connected. Chris had already built the mechanical frame for prototype one but was lost trying to figure out how to write software.

Quiz item.Quiz item.

Tony came by, took the electronics parts, and in a week had built a small two-wheeled contraption to show-off his self-balancing software. Over the next few years, Tony built the circuit boards and other components in his garage shop. Today, what is inside the Ryno is a product of all that experience and all that testing. I think I could like one!

So to this week. Which American racing car was named after a ground bird?

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 .

Wednesday, 20 May 2015 11:45

Psst! Want some cheap blue diamonds?

There has been much finger pointing at private hospitals in the past couple of weeks regarding pharmacy prices, from people who, quite frankly, do not take a wide enough view.

Pharmaceuticals cost millions of dollars before they are passed for human consumption. Laboratory research is costly, and testing is even more costly. And sometimes that testing shows that this new drug should not be released. It may do the job asked of it, but the side effect profile is too dangerous. Back to square one and start again! More expense.

However, “copy” drugs are really the result of stealing. The chemical in the drug is reproduced by chemical laboratories, and sold in the open market. No research costs, no testing costs. If copy drugs become the norm, then why should an original research company bother manufacturing new (and better) drugs?

On another tack, how many pharmacies on your street? 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?

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 mis-spelled 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 three questions; any “yes” answer could mean that the Cialis being sold may be fake:

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

2. 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)

3. 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. 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 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 pharmacy you can trust. Or suffer the consequences.

Thursday, 14 May 2015 13:48

What did we learn from the Spanish GP?

Well, we learned that Rosberg (Mercedes) has the speed needed to win races, his team mate Hamilton has plenty of tiger, the McLaren team should just go home and forget about 2015, the race was boring, but some light entertainment ensued with the new game called “Run over the pit crew” with Alonso winning but then retiring, handing the win to Grosjean (“Lotus”), whose front jack man was seen later with an ice bag on his cojones!

But back to the “race” at Barcelona. Hamilton lost his advantage by not qualifying on pole for this GP, as opposed to the four GP’s already run this year. Rosberg claimed pole and (like Hamilton previously) ran away and hid, never troubled at any stage, being eight seconds ahead of the pack by lap 10.

Hamilton said after the race was over, “I had quite a poor start; it is a long time since I have had such a poor start. But I did my best to recover and I just tried to fight but this track is not very good for overtaking which is a shame. Whatever you do you just cannot get close enough. In the end it was a matter of damage limitation.”

Ending up third was Vettel (Ferrari), who had been third in Qualifying. He had briefly managed to get up to second at the start, but with fading tyres relinquished the position to Hamilton. His team mate, the loquacious Raikkonen, did improve from seventh on the grid to come in fifth, one of the very few to improve. Will Kimi still be at Ferrari next year? Vettel wants him there (because it makes Vettel look good)!

Fourth was the other Finn, Valtteri Bottas in the Williams. Looking good on paper but actually a million miles away from the winning Mercedes. His team mate Massa climbed slowly up to sixth and stayed there in a no-drama drive, which is unusual for Massa, not reading from his multi-page excuse book for a change.

Seventh, and on his fourth exploding Renault engine for the series was Ricciardo who goes to bed every night praying for a Mercedes in the engine bay. A good drive on second rate equipment. He should go to Mercedes next year, or see his shiny star fading (depending of course that Hamilton goes to Ferrari).

The Roaring Tossers fought amongst themselves, as did the Saubers and anyone else still running, none of which are competitive. Yawn, yawn, yawn.

And so finally to McLaren, one of the teams that produced world champions and world championships, with Button saying after the race, “My car was pretty scary to drive today: as soon as I touched the throttle, it just snapped away from me. It was unpredictable: in low-speed corners, the car was just slow, because I got wheel-spin immediately; in the high-speed stuff, it was just scary.” I’m sorry, but this is not good enough. Ron Dennis should sack all his staff and concentrate on selling supercars to people with questionable skills but very deep pockets.

Going back to Hamilton’s post race interview “…I just tried to fight but this track is not very good for overtaking which is a shame. Whatever you do you just cannot get close enough.” Simple answer - drop Barcelona. Bernie has no compunction about dropping better tracks from the calendar!

The next GP is at Monaco on May 24 which will probably be another bore-fest, being on a track on which it is well nigh impossible to pass.

Thursday, 14 May 2015 13:43

Another silly SUV

Aston Martin is following the lead of Bentley and Rolls-Royce with its own take on a luxury off-roader.

The DBX Concept was shown at this year’s Geneva motor show which looks for all the world like a DB9 that has a 10 tonne lorry run up its rear end.

Aston Martin has now confirmed plans to build the opulent high-riding SUV, having received a $387 million cash injection from its shareholders to expand beyond its current line-up.

Thursday, 14 May 2015 13:41

New BMW 7 Series under testing

Like so many other manufacturers, BMW has subtracted weight from the current 7 Series. Extensive use of carbon-fiber and alloy has been used to cut the car’s weight by up to 130 kg.

Carbon-fiber is used to form the passenger cell but has secondary advantages in increasing the torsional rigidity and strength of the car.

BMW claims with the cell in place, “sheet metal elements can be adjusted accordingly, allowing body weight to be significantly reduced.”

The platform and passenger cell, known as ‘35up’ by BMW, will be used in the future for models from the 7 Series down to the 3 Series.

2016 BMW 7 Series.2016 BMW 7 Series.

The exterior of the new 7 Series is very similar to the current 7 which has remained unchanged for the past six years, though it has a longer, wider nose and lower roofline and is very similar to the “Future Luxury Concept” shown at the 2014 Beijing motor show.

Engines will remain similar to current range; however, it is believed that the V12 may be dropped. A plug-in hybrid is likely, with BMW’s heavily committed technology that will first appear on the X5 xDrive40e.

The model will expand its safety equipment, including as standard or optional a more sophisticated Driving Assistant Plus with steering and directional control assistant, Lane Departure Warning Assistant with active side collision protection, and rear collision prevention and cross-traffic warning functions.

The next 7 Series may also have autonomous driving technology for use in some European cities, as the concept of autonomous cars becomes closer to reality. The technology is the result of a recent partnership between BMW and German automotive giant Continental.

BMW also says, “The latest update of the Integral Active Steering system, along with the first electromechanically driven Dynamic Drive roll stabilization system, contribute to a further boost in comfort, dynamic prowess and assurance on the road in the new BMW 7 Series.”

BMW said air suspension will be standard, with a self-levelling function and the company’s electronic Dynamic Damper Control will also be included. “Its electronically controlled dampers improve the primary and secondary ride of the sedan and sharpen its dynamic attributes.”

Much is being said about remote parking, but other manufacturers like Ford already have that, though BMW claims the next 7 Series will be the world’s first volume production car with a remote control parking function, building on the self-parking tech currently available.

Thursday, 14 May 2015 13:41

No race meeting this weekend

Sorry, the next GP is next week and at Monaco on 24 May. A race which gets almost as many hangers-on as the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight (which was a farce). Monaco is much the same, being as near as damnit impossible to pass. However, I’ll be in front of Jameson’s big screen, as always.

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