Dr. Iain Corness

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 16:29

VW finds itself in bother

The popular press has been all agog with the news that VW has been fudging the pollution tests for its diesel variants. The venom that is coming forward is just one level below burning at the stake, or hanging, drawing and quartering.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 16:26

What did we learn from the Japan GP?

Well, we learned that the man who can beat Nico Rosberg is Nico Rosberg. After fluffing the start in his Mercedes, slipping from pole to number four, he was never in the hunt for the top step of the podium. The body language standing on the second step on the podium said it all. A broken man. He can forget about world championship aspirations.

A worthy winner was Rosberg’s team mate Lewis Hamilton. After the first two corners, he ran away and hid. However, I am a little tired of the adulation he is receiving for having equaled Ayrton Senna’s 41 GP victories. Senna was killed before he could add to his total. Even Vettel has 42 wins, and neither one is anywhere near Schumacher’s 90 odd.

The start once again demonstrated the old adage that you do not win the race at the first corner, you only lose the race at the first corner. Felipe Massa (Williams), who has had more races than I have had hot dinners, should know that by now, and Ricciardo should also know this. Two drivers who could have livened up the action at the front of the field let themselves, their teams, and the spectators, down.

Vettel, of the one fingered salute, had to wave with three, but deserved his third place. Never gave up and drove the Ferrari in a faultless manner.

Raikkonen was unimpressive in the second Ferrari coming in fourth. Kimi has signed his contract for 2016, so he can go back to sleep again.

Valtteri Bottas (fifth in the surviving Williams), was unable to maintain his position as a challenger to Rosberg and was passed by the Ferraris, after looking secure in the early part of the race.

Another workmanlike drive from Nico Hulkenberg (FIndia) saw him lead both the “Lotus” of Grosjean and Maldonado home. An amazing drive from the Venezuelan who never hit anything, or anyone, all afternoon (for a change).

The final point scorers were the Toro Rosso twins, the feisty Max Verstappen and Carlos Sainz Jnr. Verstappen, in particular, is willing to have a go and pulled off some amazing passing maneuvers including an audacious one on his team mate. The impetuousness of youth?

The also-rans included both Red Bulls, with Kvyat suffering from a lack of set-up on his Sunday car, having comprehensively destroyed his Saturday one, and Ricciardo trying to do the same to his on the Sunday. Much rumor as to which power unit Red Bull will have for next year. Mercedes has said no, Ferrari are reluctant, Renault nobody wants and Honda can’t even give theirs away for free. The concept of Red Bull being bought by VW just went up in a puff of smoke, leaving Red Bull in the hands of Dietrich Mateschitz, who is publicly bored with the F1 scene (if he’s not winning). Watch this space.

After Honda was roundly chastised in Japan at the Honda circuit by both its drivers, with Alonso even repeating “It’s embarrassing,” there would have been at least a dozen Hara-Kiri mats and disemboweling swords ordered for Monday. It is almost impossible to believe that the mighty Honda engineering department can make an engine so far down on power that neither Alonso nor Button could prevent being passed by cars that are usually back markers.

The next GP is in Russia on October 11.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 16:21

Borgward resurrected

German car-maker Borgward has made the next step in its comeback to the automotive world after more than half a century away, with the unveiling last week of its BX7 SUV.

A plug-in electric hybrid version and an up-spec TS luxury version will be part of the brand’s return to the global automotive market next year, with hopes of selling vehicles to the European region, as well as in China where the cars are set to be built.

The venture, reportedly backed by Chinese commercial vehicle-maker Foton, has lofty goals of selling more than half a million vehicles and expanding the range beyond SUVs.

Borgward CEO Ulrich Walker said the target was to turn the brand – resurrected by Christian Borgward, president of Borgward AG and grandson of founder Carl F W Borgward – into a major international automobile manufacturer.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 16:19

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I mentioned that the quest for lightness is easily found in Formula racing. In 1966 there was even one with a stressed skin plywood hull. What was it? It was the 1966 Protos open wheel racer.

So to this week. What was remarkable about the clutch pedal on the Chaparral 2D which won the 1000 km race at Nurburgring in 1966?

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, 30 September 2015 15:34

10 Chambers of Commerce get together

A new venue for the combined chambers of commerce Sundowner, which was held at the Courtyard by Marriott, and organized by the Australian Chamber of Commerce (AustCham).

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 14:05

The medical dangers of being ‘simpatico’

When I was still in my first intern year, I scored a posting to Gibraltar, that rocky finger that hangs off Spain in the Mediterranean. The rock was to be my abode for the next six months, while I carried out my surgical term, and it was there that I was exposed to the Spanish adjective ‘simpatico’.

Whilst similar to ‘sympathetic’ in English, it has a much deeper meaning in Spanish and refers not only to how others see you, but also your own personal feelings.

Now while being considered as ‘simpatico’ would look to be an admirable characteristic for a young doctor, it was something of a two-edged sword, as I was to find out later.

The price is a reduction in the doctor’s personal quality time. As you become more and more involved with the patients, whose needs encompass 24 hours, the young doctor ends up as a slave to not just the patients, but to the profession.

However, being an intern is a stressful time for young doctors. Quite frankly, after graduation and a nice new shiny name badge, you do not know enough about common conditions, but are expected to have encyclopedic knowledge by the patients. In my own case, I was quite sure I could diagnose an adenoma of the pancreas, but I had no idea what to do with a child with earache. Like many professions you pick it up as you go – but not too many professions have the ‘life or death’ tag attached.

In case you think that the pressures are not really that bad, after all, the popular image of the young intern is one of permanently trying to get into every nurse’s knickers in between bouts of beer swilling at the closest pub to the hospital, this has to be based on fact, surely. Let me assure you that the “Carry On” movie series was no reflection of the real medical world. Being on call for 108 hours a week does not leave much time for after-hours gynecological studies with Nurse Smith from ICU.

Stress? I can remember one of my consultants telling me that a 24 year old female patient was going to die because her heart muscle had given out. I could not believe that this was the case. Surely we could do something? Unfortunately, all those years ago we could not. Heart transplants were yet to come. Pacemakers likewise. The consultant knew when to ‘turn himself off’. Junior Houseman Corness did not. I kept going back to her bed in the ICU, willing her to live. She was only 24 for Pete’s sake. She died.

The result of such stress on doctors has been studied quite comprehensively, and the respected New England Journal of Medicine published the results of the research carried out by the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. The Hopkins team assessed the specialty choices, marriage histories, psychological characteristics, and other career and personal factors of 1,118 physicians who graduated from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine from 1948 through 1964.

After decades of following 1,118 physicians who graduated from the Hopkins School of Medicine between 1948 and 1964, researchers found a 51 percent divorce rate for psychiatrists and 33 percent for surgeons, rates higher than those for internists (24 percent), pediatricians and pathologists (each 22 percent). The study revealed a 32 percent overall physician divorce rate.

Results also strongly suggest that the high divorce risk in some specialties may result from the inherent demands of the job as well as the emotional experiences of physicians who enter those fields. Right! You’re telling me nothing I don’t know (from bitter experience, I might add)!

The recommendation was, “Marital counseling during residency training appears to be a good idea for family and career satisfaction in the long term.”

My eldest son, Dr. Jonathan Corness, has the ‘simpatico’ gene and for that reason I tried to talk him out of Medicine as his future. But when he decided that being a Radiologist might be a better specialty than Pediatrics, I applauded his decision. For people like Jonathan, one step back from the frontline is a good career move. Unfortunately, I stayed at the frontline too long.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015 11:52

AFG learns the gentle art of grinding

The Automotive Focus Group (AFG) held another of their informative meetings at the Marriott Courtyard last week. It was addressed by Praveen Jaduvanshi from Wendt Thailand who spoke on his organization’s capabilities and his experiences in Thailand.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015 18:02

Japan GP this weekend

One of the greatest tracks used in Formula One today, Japan’s Suzuka circuit is a massive test of car and driver ability. Built by Honda as a test facility in 1962, the track was designed by Dutchman John Hugenholz, the Hermann Tilke of his day (but don’t let that put you off). A huge theme park was also constructed at the track, including the famous big wheel which dominates the Suzuka skyline.

At Suzuka the race has provided the scene for many nail-biting end-of-season deciders, including the infamous collisions involving Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna. This week, will it be Pastor Maldonado, Romain Grosjean, or Felipe Massa in the colliding business? Put your money on Maldonado!

Suzuka includes some of the Grand Prix calendar’s most challenging corners. Among the drivers’ favorites are the high-speed 130R taken at over 300 km/h and the famous Spoon Curve taken at 140 km/h on the way in and at 180 km/h coming out.

Suzuka Circuit.

With the results from Singapore still in everybody’s minds, will Suzuka be a firecracker or a fizzer? With a circuit that encourages passing, it would have to be a better race than Singapore, and I don’t care how many “celebrities” Bernie invited.

I will be watching from my usual perch at Jameson’s Irish Pub, Soi AR, next to Nova Park for the 53 lap GP of the 5.8 km circuit. We have the big screen and the dedicated F1 channel with no adverts during the race. That’s a bonus by itself! Now, important – with the time differential between here and Japan, the race on Sunday starts at 12 p.m. (noon) Thai time. Join us for lunch and a couple of jars before the red lights go out.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015 18:00

Abarth 695 Biposto

Abarth has been modifying baby Fiats for many years. In their day they were the fore-runners of today’s pocket rockets.

Abarth has now done it again, with a modified (new) Fiat 500 called the 695 Biposto. It, however, does not come cheaply, with price around that of a Porsche Cayenne.

The track background is exemplified by this new car as can be seen in the options that are offered. It has two seats. It has no sound system or air-conditioning, but you can nominate a $15,000 race-track sourced Bacci Romano gearbox kit that adds dog-rings, allowing rapid upshifts using the long gearshift mechanism, an all-aluminium affair with a standard ‘H’ configuration.

The ultimate pocket rocket?

The dog-ring gearbox allows for quick clutch gearshifts without using the copper-racing clutch. Fiat says around three quarters of Biposto’s sold will be fitted with the optional dog gearbox.

Also included in the option pack is a mechanical limited slip diff and carbon-fiber tunnel and handbrake cover.

Now comes other expensive add-ons. The $9000 option pack; the 124 Speciale option pack adds $5000 worth of aluminium bonnet and lightweight metal caps for coolant, oil and fuel.

The car weighs 997 kg, with 140 kW and 250 Nm coming from the 1.4 liter turbocharged four-cylinder engine, enough to produce a zero to 100 kph time of 5.9 seconds and a 230 km/h top speed.

The power is all put to ground using a clever front diff, backed by a Torque Transfer Control system that uses brake intervention rather than cutting power to maintain stability without loss of performance.

Old Abarth Fiat.

A rear roof spoiler, front splitter, flared wheel arches and the bulging alloys distinguish the Biposto from its common or garden Fiat 500 siblings, but there’s scope for more.

For the serious racer there’s a Track Kit that adds a data logger system, and Sabelt carbon-fiber racing seats with four-point racing harnesses; plus front fixed windows made from polycarbonate, complete with sliding panels (add $7000).

Wheels are 18 inch alloy wheels (made by OZ and weighing just 7 kg each) with 215/35 tyres are standard, as is adjustable suspension, a rear titanium roll bar by Poggipolini (where the rear seat passengers would normally sit), a race-bred intercooler, an active titanium exhaust from super bike exhaust specialist Akrapovic and Brembo cross-drilled four-wheel disc brakes with four-pot calipers on the front.

If you want to stand out from the phony ponies, forget the MINI (which should be called MAXI) and visit your local Fiat agent – and that’s where it gets a little difficult!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015 17:59

What did we learn from Singapore?

Well, we learned that the Mercedes/Hamilton juggernaut could be stopped. We also learned that some drivers make poor decisions. Passing can be done on the Singapore circuit, and some people enjoy a late night stroll. There was also the intrigue of the auto-selecting neutrals!

All weekend Mercedes was nowhere near the top of the practice sessions, and again in Qualifying, Hamilton and Rosberg were only 5th and 6th with Vettel (Ferrari) way in front on pole position, and Mercedes couldn’t work out why. My feeling is that with their superior engine and greatest top speed, they had not put as much development into handling this year, and Singapore, with its numerous corners and no long straights, did not favor the silver arrows.

So to the race, and it was Vettel all the way from Ricciardo (Red Bull) who could keep the red car in sight, but that was all. Third was Raikkonen (Ferrari) in what can only be described as a lack-luster performance. When Ferrari find out what is needed to get Kimi going they will have two winning drivers. In the meantime …?

The results after Raikkonen were subject to two safety car periods. One for the aftermath of Massa (Williams) and Hulkenberg (FIndia) disputing the corner after the pits with the Hulk coming off second best and being given a three grid place demotion for Japan. Stewards make some strange decisions (but that has always been the case). The second Safety car was after they found a lone Brit, under the weather, having ducked under the safety fence and walking casually down the main straight, taking the odd holiday snap for his Mum and Dad.

After that excitement, Rosberg (Mercedes) came in 4th in another uninspired drive, looking to settle behind Hamilton until Hamilton’s engine went sour and he became a retirement.

Bottas (Williams) inherited 5th and Kvyat (Red Bull), who got the pit stops wrong vis-à-vis the safety car periods, finishing 6th, well clear of Perez (FIndia) and Verstappen (Toro Rosso).

Verstappen deserved his 8th after stalling on the grid and rejoining a lap down and then showing everyone that passing was possible in a wonderfully aggressive drive. And he is only just 17 – wait till he gets old enough to shave!

Now for the intrigue. Several drivers complained that their gearbox would select neutrals all by itself, and the conspiracy theorists claim that the underground cables for the Mass Transit system were the cause. This is nonsense, the real reason being Bernie playing with the remote from the TV set.

I almost forgot another stunning weekend for McLaren with both cars out with gearbox maladies. Alonso must look at himself in the mirror and wonder why he left Ferrari. Blunder of the year!

Hot goss goes that Red Bull has been bought by VW to run under the Audi banner. Renault are buying “Lotus” and Williams have fallen for the Maldonado money for 2016. Expect more crashes in 2016.

The Japan GP is this weekend September 27, a ‘real’ circuit. Will Mercedes have found its mojo again? Race time is 12 noon Thai time this Sunday.

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