Dr. Iain Corness

The local series, sponsored by Nitto and Kumho tyres, and 3 K batteries, has its second round of the six round championship at the Bira circuit on Highway 36 this weekend.

While I suppose people might think I’m on the way down, here’s another local driver for you to look out for on the way up - James Runacres. James is 20 and has been through the usual apprenticeship of go-karting, even winning on his first outing in one.

Back in 2011, the Ford Explorer in North America was fitted with an inflatable belt designed to reduce head, neck and chest injuries for rear-seat passengers, often children and the older group who are more vulnerable to such injuries.

This technology is now being fitted across the Mondeo range (which we may or may not get in Thailand).

In the event of an accident, the belt rapidly expands to disperse crash forces across a body area five times greater than that achieved by a conventional seatbelt.

Sensors trigger the release of compressed gas out of a cylinder housed below the rear seat, through the buckle and into the belt.

Ford’s inflatable seat belt.Ford’s inflatable seat belt.

The Inflatable Rear Seatbelt is fully deployed down the length of the lower side of the seatbelt away from the face in less than 40 milliseconds.

The Inflatable Rear Seatbelts have been tested extensively using the Ford crash test dummy family and it has been proven to offer extra protection over the standard rear seatbelt system.

The inflatable belts operate like conventional seatbelts in everyday use and, in Ford’s research, more than 90 percent of those who tested the inflatable seatbelts found them to be similar to or more comfortable than a conventional belt because they feel padded and softer.

Good idea Mr. Ford, but why stop at the Mondeo? I’m sure the Fiesta and the Focus would benefit from this technology.

Thursday, 28 May 2015 11:07

What did we learn from the Monaco GP?

Well, we learned, if we didn’t know already, that this track is quite unsuitable for today’s F1 cars. Watching Hamilton (Mercedes) jumping the kerb and using all the footpath trying to get past the car in front is surely enough evidence. And who cares about B-list “personalities” I have never heard of. We line up in front of TV sets all over the world to watch MOTOR RACING, not B-list models and footballers. Did you get that, Bernie?

But back to the race that Hamilton won and Mercedes lost. After dominating Qualifying and taking pole almost half a second quicker than his team mate Rosberg, Hamilton had first almost in his grasp, until a pit wall cock-up took the win from Hamilton and gifted it to Rosberg. However, motor racing is a cut-throat game and a win is a win is a win. You never turn one down! The record book only shows who actually crossed the finish line first, not who ‘should’ have crossed it first. He who was first became 3rd and the meek inherited the earth or something like that.

Inheriting second, after the Mercedes mistake, was Sebastian Vettel (Ferrari), laughing all the way to the bank. Or should I say Casino? His team mate, laughing boy Kimi Raikkonen, ended up sixth behind the two Red Bulls, after Dan Ricciardo (sponsored by toothpaste, or so the rumor goes) gave him a helping hand towards the shrubbery. Kimi was less than amused.

The Red Bulls had an agreement that if the Colgate Kid could not get past Hamilton, then he would hand the place back to Kvyat on the last lap, which he did (unlike the days when Vettel and Webber had less than sporting agreements)!

Now comes the thorny question hanging over the 17 year old Dutchman Max Verstappen who completely misjudged his position relative to another car, ripping his front wheel off against Grosjean’s rear wheel and spearing into the safety barrier. Was the lack of judgment because he was 17? Or not enough experience? Or just bad luck? Or is he Mad Max after all? As can be pointed out, many older and more experienced drivers have made bad judgments, so should we just accept Verstappen’s incident as bad luck? According to the race stewards we should not, they found Verstappen was at fault and he has been penalized five grid places for the next GP.

A sterling drive was to come from Perez (Force India) into 7th place, avoiding other cars, kerbs, Maldonado, B-listers and the odd paparazzi. Because he was not bouncing off others we hardly saw him on the telecast, but he was there.

Similar fate with Nasr in the “Saubr”(?) 9th and Sainz 10th (Toro Rosso).

McLaren were shaking hands with themselves having two cars running in point scoring positions, let’s forget about standing on a podium. Unfortunately, Alonso’s gearbox decided not to give him any gears and he was once again a non-finisher. However, Alonso said after the race, “We need to keep improving the car to ensure these sorts of things don’t happen again. Still, having these problems this year is good, because it means we won’t repeat them next year.” Next year! The man’s a masochist.

As opposed to masochism, the supreme optimist has to be Pastor Maldonado (“Lotus”), who lines up on the grid, thinking he will see a chequered flag. He hasn’t all year and Monaco was to be no different. His sixth DNF in a row is probably worth a place in the Guinness Book of Records.

Thursday, 28 May 2015 11:04

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked which American racing car was named after a ground bird? Really too easy again, but it is hard to find answers that can’t be ‘Googled’. It was the Chaparral which is also known as the Road Runner (pursued hotly by Wylie E Coyote with his latest device from the Acme company).

The Chaparrals (race cars) were certainly ahead of their time and were in the early days of ground effects and wings - especially with their movable aerofoil - though do remember that Mercedes had a movable “air brake” of the 300 SLR’s in 1955.

So to this week. In 1935 the 0-60 mph time of 8.8 seconds was set by a car with a straight 8 engine and an American chassis. It was the fastest 0-60 in the world. What was it?

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, 27 May 2015 13:27

Ouch! That hurts!

There is an old orthopedic surgeon’s joke about the painful Go-Go dancer’s knee, which goes, “What’s a nice joint like you doing in a girl like this?” However, our joints certainly give us lots of problems, especially as we get older.

The joints to give us the most worries are knees, ankles, fingers, shoulders and hips in around that order. All of them are joints you use and need frequently.

For many of the joints it is a simple case of wearing them out. This is especially so with the weight bearing joints such as the knees, ankles and hips. In the perfect body scenario, your joints are designed to last you about 80 years, hold your bottom off the ground for 80 years and move smoothly for 80 years. Overload these joints and they wear out quicker. Consequently, if they have become knackered by the time you are 55 then you have another 25 years of aching joints to look forward to. Of course, the quickest way to wear out your poor old joints is to be overweight.

In the past week I have had a couple of people come to see me to ask about their pains. However, this is not surprising, as pain is often the presenting symptom for many illnesses and physical conditions. For example, the symptom of a fractured rib is pain on deep breathing, coughing or sudden movement.

In fact, our skeletons are responsible for many of our pains. Fractures and degenerative conditions such as osteoarthritis are certainly high in the list of likely suspects. Gout, which produces an arthritis in the joint in the big toe gives exquisite pain - just ask anyone who has had it!

Is it not possible to be pain-free, in today’s Blue Tooth world? Unfortunately, the chemicals that are strong enough to mask the pain are also strong enough to render your brain inoperative when taken over a long period.

I do also realize that there are times when you want “temporary” respite from pain. The footballer with a fractured finger can have local anesthetic injected into the fracture so that he can do the two 45 minutes halves plus injury time and penalty shootout. That’s it. Not tablets for the next three weeks!

So why do we have “pain”? Pain is actually inbuilt into our systems for an important purpose. Damage control! Pain is what stops us damaging our bodies even further than they are damaged already. Let’s go back to the broken rib scenario. Most fractured ribs are “cracks” along the long axis of the bone, not a complete break right through, so that the ends are flapping around in the breeze. The pain stops the unfortunate person from doing too much and breaking it totally right through. Pain has a protective influence. With the person who has joint pains or gout, the purpose of the pain is to stop further damage to an already “crumbling” joint or one filled with sharp crystals. Pain makes you rest it, so that it can heal. When you stop to think about it, pain is good for us.

However, there are also chronic pain situations, and these are harder to deal with. Particularly when the pain is coming from a permanently damaged skeleton, or from a condition we cannot “cure”. This is where pain management comes in, and it is a fairly skillful region of medicine, let me assure you. Practitioners in this have to really understand what the patient is going through. What happens is that we (or you) have to maximize an ability of the body’s nervous system known as “attenuation”. This is where the nervous system receives so much pain stimuli that eventually the pain receptors “give up” through the overuse. However, getting to that stage is a long and painful road itself.

Chemical assistance is needed, but it is not just a case of taking big dose analgesics. In actual fact, much of the work in this area is with taking agents to slow down nerve transmission and other agents such as anti-inflammatories, which work with pain killers to make them more potent at a lower dose (so the brain doesn’t get mussed up)! It’s not easy.

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.

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