The long awaited sports car from Alfa Romeo, built on the Mazda MX-5 platform, has gone through another name change. Now FIAT Chrysler Automobiles (FCA) has revealed that the new sports car will be sold as a Fiat and called the 124 Spider, resurrecting the name after 30 years. This was confirmed by FCA CEO Sergio Marchionne at the Geneva Motor Show.
In 1993, energy technologist Amory Lovins of the Rocky Mountain Institute suggested that major automakers could use existing materials and technologies to produce an ultra-lightweight, highly fuel-efficient vehicle. The ‘supercar’ he envisioned would incorporate lightweight plastics, computerized controls, and a hybrid powerplant. It would weigh roughly 500 kg and achieve well over 150 miles per gallon. Lovins felt it would, however, need a revolution in the industry to change the engineering concepts of ‘power’, rather than ‘weight’.
The Federation International de l’Automobile (FIA) is re-arranging the deckchairs on the Titanic yet again. This time bringing in legislation that the drivers cannot change their helmet design during the course of the 2015 season.
It must be wonderful knowing that everything else is hunky-dory, so they can now look at the final major problems like helmet design. Very shortly I expect a bulletin detailing what color socks may be worn on GP weekends.
A good friend (who can remain nameless just in case the FIA starts a witch hunt) gave me a copy of Scrutineer Technical Documents. Just simply amazing! There is even a formula to show how high the sides of the racing boot must be to remain legal. And for those of you waiting with bated breath, it is 0.15 x length + 7.5 in centimeters.
And if you ever wondered at the number of officials in the pits, they are made up of the following:
Tyre allocation team 2
Initial scrutineering team 6
Garage scrutineers 6
Tyre checkers 10
Weighing platform scrutineers 5
Pushing car marshals 6
Fire Marshals 2
Chief scrutineer 1
I’ll add them up for you - that’s 38!
Now what the scrutineers check for includes seeing the car number on the driver’s helmet and that leg padding is 25 mm thick. Wow!
Unsure of the telecast time? Here is the Formula 1 Calendar 2015, with local Thai time, to make it easy for you to arrange your Sundays.
|Mar-29||Malaysia Grand Prix||2:00 PM|
|Apr-12||Chinese Grand Prix||1:00 PM|
|Apr-19||Bahrain Grand Prix||10:00 PM|
|May-10||Spanish Grand Prix||7:00 PM|
|May-24||Monaco Grand Prix||7:00 PM|
|Jun-08||Canadian Grand Prix||1:00 AM|
|Jun-21||Austrian Grand Prix||7:00 PM|
|Jul-05||British Grand Prix||7:00 PM|
|Jul-19||German Grand Prix||7:00 PM|
|Jul-26||Hungarian Grand Prix||7:00 PM|
|Aug-23||Belgian Grand Prix||7:00 PM|
|Sep-06||Italian Grand Prix||7:00 PM|
|Sep-20||Singapore Grand Prix||7:00 PM|
|Sep-27||Japanese Grand Prix||12:00 PM|
|Oct-11||Russian Grand Prix||6:00 PM|
|Oct-26||United States GP||2:00 AM|
|Nov-02||Mexican Grand Prix||2:00 AM|
|Nov-15||Brazilian Grand Prix||11:00 PM|
|Nov-29||Abu Dhabi Grand Prix||8:00 PM|
Last week I noted that Daimler (1946) and Packard (1948) had something in common. What was it? Daimler was the first to use them, and Packard was the first large-scale user of them. It was electric windows!
So to this week. There was a very simple device stopping vehicles from running backwards, seen in vintage cars. The same principle is used today in automatic gearboxes. What was it called?
Well, in the days before the race weekend we found we had the incredible situation in the Sauber garage with three drivers and two seats playing musical chairs. By Friday and the first practice session the music was still playing as the drivers ran around the available chairs. Then, Sauber having lost the court case, the third driver was threatening to press contempt of court charges which would see the Down-Under heavies confiscate the whole Sauber shooting match and the imprisonment of Monisha Kaltenborn, the person at the top of the Sauber Grand Prix package. At the last minute on the Friday, the aggrieved driver, who had won the case in both Switzerland and Australia, backed down from his threats and Sauber could finally race, using the two pay drivers. How much did that cost Bernie?
Meanwhile, in the “Manor” garage, the mechanics were still trying to get their (last year’s) car started, as someone had forgotten the electronic ignition keys! This team was called Marussia last year and raced at most of the Grands Prix till it ran out of folding green. Saved by a white knight at the start of this year, it was told by the FIA they could run last year’s cars until they were able to build a new one (which would have been last year’s anyway, with a new color scheme). So there they were, transporters, race cars, two drivers (as opposed to Sauber’s team of three), spares, stop watches and everything else, and they didn’t have the software needed to start the engines. So this team, which was already down to its bootstraps, wasted all that money and never turned a wheel in anger!
But the farce didn’t end there. Two of the race cars did not manage to complete the warm-up lap from the pits to the grid.
Kevin Magnussen, driving the McLaren Honda (in place of the recuperating Fernando Alonso) popped his multi-million dollar engine after half a lap, so was a non-starter for the race. Someone at Honda will be committing ritual Hara-kiri over this, using a bent con-rod as the implement of destruction. However, Engineer-San will have some explaining to do first!
Joining Magnussen on the sidelines was the Russian Red Bull driver Daniil Kvyat who lost fifth gear on his way to the grid. “It was there, when we gave him the car, asserted the mechanics.” Team Boss Christian Horner will need a shed load of Christian charity over that one.
And I don’t need to remind you that this is the pinnacle of world motor sport, and not the five lap dash for old bangers at Bira.
For the cars that actually made it to the start, the race began with the two Ferraris hitting each other and cannoning into Pastor Maldonado in the “Lotus”, who promptly ended his race at the second corner. Pastor never needs encouragement to park his car in the wall. At last count that is the third time he has done that in four races in Australia. But it is amazing just how much forgiveness $50 million buys you!
Other interesting items included Kimi Raikkonen’s retirement on lap 30 with his loose left rear wheel. This came after the crew had trouble screwing on the wheel nut at the pit stop.
Oh yes, I almost forgot with all the excitement - the two Mercedes cars were first and second, Lewis Hamilton from Nico Rosberg, and the remaining nine finishers were nowhere. Third placed Vettel (remember him? The Finger) was 35 seconds behind the winner and 11th (and last) was Jenson Button in the McLaren Honda two laps behind.
Let us hope that next week’s Malaysian GP is better.
Is orthodox medicine really that bad? It has always been the case that people seem to like to throwing stones at conventional clinical medicine. Claims of over-servicing, over-prescribing and downright fraudulent practices are thrown about, citing someone whose uncle/friend/mother (delete that which is inappropriate) suffered at the hands of “bad” doctors, who missed the diagnosis and treated the wrong bit.
Now, there are certainly some “bad” doctors out there, just as there are “bad” lawyers, “bad” Real Estate agents, “bad” mechanics and just about any profession you would like to think of. But they’re not all “bad”.
How do you become a “doctor”? Take me for example, I am a conventionally trained British/Australian style medical practitioner who has spent a lifetime practicing EBM, otherwise known as Evidence Based Medicine. Practices that have been proven to work. Call it “good” medicine, if you like.
I am proud of my training. Six years at an Australian university that had a good name, and still does, despite undergraduates like me. I am also proud of passing the exams in the Royal Colleges of Physicians and Surgeons in London. I have the honor to have my name listed in the ‘great book’ with luminaries such as Hunter, Jenner and Lister. I am also indebted to my tutors during the 12 months of ‘pre-registration’, where you apply your knowledge under the supervision of accredited specialists. An arduous road, but one that is a safeguard for you, the general public.
The ‘powers that be’ are also ensuring that we keep up to date with a process called Continuous Medical Education (CME). That medical education continues, with CME lectures being attended by my hospital’s doctors (and myself). Fortunately for me, the slides are in English, even though sometimes the lecture is not.
Those ‘powers that be’ also try to ensure that we prescribe drugs that are efficacious, that have been tested, and the evidence points to this. It is not anecdotal evidence, but true scientific evidence shown by research in many countries, with hundreds of thousands of patients. It is following that type of evidence that I can recommend with all good faith, that 100 mg of aspirin a day is “good” medicine. I also know that if you are prescribed a ‘statin’ drug it will lower your cholesterol levels. They have been tested. And these days, very rigorously indeed.
I am also the first to admit that we have sometimes managed to get it wrong. The Thalidomide story still has living examples of this. However, the medical world-wide network is cohesive enough to ensure that this drug was withdrawn. It is the checks and balances system that has kept western medicine afloat. This is not to be equated with the checks and balances system that have been incorrectly applied in the banking industry that sees those institutions on the brink of sinking!
I am often asked my opinion on “alternative” medicine, and all its diverse areas of ‘specialization’. I try to avoid direct confrontation over this. If devotees have found that they can diagnose tumors by looking at patient’s auras through their third eye in the middle of their foreheads, then I am genuinely pleased, in fact delighted, provided that they have subjected the method to scientific scrutiny.
If various groups can actually cure cancer, epilepsy, halitosis or lock-jaw by inserting dandelions into a fundamental orifice, then again I am delighted. This is a medical break-through, but as such, must be subjected to medical scrutiny. If the method stands true scientific examination (not to be confused with anecdotal ‘evidence’) then it will be adopted by everyone, complete with thanks to those clever people who picked the dandelions in the first place. After all, penicillin was tripped over, not designed. But it has had a very rigorous scientific scrutiny since.
As far as the majority of ‘folk’ remedies is concerned, I work on the principle that if you ‘think’ it is doing you good, then it probably is. But don’t ask me to endorse something that has not been scientifically tested.
When the ‘alternative’ group spends more time proving their methods, instead of complaining about non-acceptance, EBM practitioners will give them more credence.
The first race of the season begins in Melbourne Australia this weekend. Only now will we see just how good or otherwise the teams really are.
McLaren have had a dreadful official testing over the last couple of months, and the following statistics table may surprise some of you.
Last time I checked the race time in Melbourne, the organizers were still saying the starting time was to be confirmed. However, I believe it should be noon our time. We will be watching at Jameson’s Irish Pub (Soi AR, next to Nova Park), so join us for lunch about 11 a.m. in time for the race.
Audi’s new second-generation R8 supercar has received an online unveiling ahead of the car’s official debut at the Geneva motor show next month.
The new model is lighter, faster and sharper than before and unlike the original R8 will only be available with a V10 engine from launch.
Powering the new R8 is a mid-mounted, dry-sumped and naturally aspirated 5.2-liter V10 that is carried over from the outgoing model but boosted from 386 kW/530 Nm to 397 kW/540 Nm in standard form, resulting in a claimed 0-100 km/h time of 3.5 seconds.
The quicker V10 Plus model uses the same 449 kW/560 Nm unit as the Lamborghini Huracan, and matches the Lambo’s 3.2 second 0-100 km/h time.
The engine isn’t the only part of the R8 shared with the new Huracan either. The new multi-material space-frame platform is also derived from the V10 Lamborghini.
The R8’s passenger cell is a hybrid structure made from a combination of lightweight aluminium and carbon fiber which weighs just 200 kg, allowing for a bodyshell that’s 15 percent lighter than before.
The B-pillar, transmission tunnel and rear bulkhead are all made from carbon fiber reinforced plastics, while the roof and structural framework are made from aluminium.
The result is a body structure that is 40 per cent torsionally stronger than before in the previous R8.
Like the outgoing model, the new R8 uses an S-Tronic 7-speed dual-clutch gearbox and Quattro all-wheel drive system which can now send up to 100 percent of the V10’s torque to either end.
The new model looks essentially the same as the old model with the exception of width - it is now around 11 mm wider.
The overall shape hasn’t changed dramatically either, but sharper lines give it a significantly more muscular appearance.
The first-generation R8 coupe’s trademark contrasting ‘sideblades’ have been included but are now much smaller and only cover the side air intakes.
The new model also features a more significant aerodynamic package with an aggressive rear diffuser, and fixed carbon fiber wing on V10 Plus models.
As standard the new R8 rides on 19 inch alloys with 245/35 front and 295/35 rear tyres which hide unique weight-saving wave-shaped steel brake discs while carbon ceramic discs are fitted to the V10 Plus.
The interior has also received a thorough makeover, featuring a new Audi TT-style wing-shaped dashboard and fully digital instrument display with integrated multimedia.
There is also a new sports steering wheel with engine start/stop and drive mode select buttons. The V10 Plus model gets a further two buttons, one for controlling the sports exhaust system and another rotary dial for selecting dry, wet and snow programs for the stability control system.
Like other Audi Quattro models, the R8 features four different driving modes which vary the throttle response, gear shift speed, steering weight and damper stiffness if adaptive suspension is specified.
Modes include comfort, auto, dynamic and individual, which allows drivers to select their ideal combination.
It’s that time of year again, when Bangkok is in the spotlight with our own International Motor Show. This motor show is the one accredited by the Organisation Internationale des Constructeurs d’ Automobiles (OICA) for Thailand, and is for the manufacturers to display their models, more than the dealers. It is being held at the Challenger Halls 1-3, Impact Muang Thong Thani. Public dates are March 25 to April 5.
I will be present for the Press Day (March 24) and will be featuring some of the more interesting vehicles over the next few weeks in this column.
Our Motor Show.