Dr. Iain Corness

Porsche Carrera Cup Asia has published the calendar for 12th season, featuring brand new Porsche 911 GT3 Cup (Type 991) racing cars.

The provisional line-up for the 2014 season includes races at three rounds of the FIA Formula 1 World Championship, with the opening race of the 11-round championship at the Malaysian Grand Prix in March following the official test three weeks earlier at the Sepang International Circuit.  Round 2 will be part of the Formula 1 Chinese Grand Prix at the Shanghai International Circuit, with the series supporting the pinnacle of world motorsport for a third time on Singapore’s Marina Bay street circuit in September.

Following a double header at the China GT Championship at China’s Zhuhai International Circuit in May, the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia will make its debut in Japan, with Rounds 5 and 6 at the famed Fuji International Circuit.

The championship returns to Malaysia in August for two races at the Asian Festival of Speed, with the season finale inked as part of the Shanghai round of the FIA World Endurance Championship in October.

The Provisional Race Calendar:

March 28 - 30 Sepang Intl. Circuit, Malaysia Formula 1 Support Race Round 1
April 18 - 20 Shanghai Intl. Circuit, China Formula 1 Support Race Round 2
May 09 - 11 Zhuhai Intl. Circuit, China China GT Championship* Rounds 3 and 4
June 06 - 08 Fuji Intl. Circuit, Japan One Make Series Festival* Rounds 5&6
August 15 - 17 Sepang Intl. Circuit, Malaysia Asian Festival of Speed* Rounds 7 and 8
September 19 - 21 Marina Bay Circuit, Singapore Formula 1 Support Race Round 9
Oct 31 - Nov 02 Shanghai Intl. Circuit, China Rounds 10 and 11

Supporting the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia are two of the most recognized names in international motorsport, Mobil1 and Michelin.  Mobil and Porsche have been partners since 1996.  Close co-operation in research and development has led to every new Porsche engine being filled with Mobil1 high-performance lubricant. Porsche Carrera Cup Asia drivers also have the advantage of racing on cutting-edge tyres supplied by series partner Michelin.  The consistent performance and leading technology of Michelin tyres constantly improve the performance of many teams in international motorsport.  The partnership between Michelin and the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia has emerged from a worldwide agreement signed between Porsche AG and the Michelin group. The Porsche Carrera Cup Asia is organized and promoted by Malaysian based Motorsport Asia Ltd.

Last week I asked which washing machine manufacturer built cars with four reverse gears?  It was the Lightburn Zeta.  With its 2-stroke engine you ran it backwards to get reverse, hence four reverse gears!

So to this week.  What is the connection between King Neptune and automotive spark plugs?

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, 02 January 2014 16:13

Work is the curse of the drinking classes!

(The following is a chapter from my third book, called “The Virgin Surgeon” which will be out later in 2014.)

One of the lesser known medical specialties is Occupational Medicine.  This is the study of worker health, how the workplace affects health, the man-machine interface, industrial exposure to contaminants and many other occupational hazards.  One example of occupationally induced conditions is known as ‘Vibration White Fingers’ and comes under the general umbrella of an interesting set of conditions known as Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Since doctors like to have conditions named after them, Raynaud’s phenomenon comes from Dr. Maurice Raynaud, a French physician who published a report in 1862 of a young woman whose fingertips changed colors when she was cold or under stress.  He is credited with the discovery of the condition.  Thank you Dr. Raynaud!

Raynaud’s phenomenon, sometimes called Raynaud’s syndrome or disease, is a disorder of blood circulation in the fingers.  This condition is usually produced by exposure to cold which reduces blood circulation causing the fingers to become pale, waxy-white or purple.  This condition is sometimes called “white finger”, “wax finger” or “dead finger”.  These attacks occur when the hands or the whole body get cold either at work or at home.  Ordinary activities resulting in cold exposure can include washing a car, holding a cold steering wheel, or the cold handlebars of a bicycle.  Attacks of white finger can also occur when a person is outdoors watching sports, or while gardening, fishing or golfing in cold weather.

Typical attacks occur with tingling and slight loss of feeling or numbness in the fingers, blanching or whitening of the fingers, usually without affecting the thumb, and pain, sometimes with redness, which accompanies the return of blood circulation generally after 30 minutes to two hours.

Many cases of Raynaud’s phenomenon are such that we cannot identify the cause.  To escape the embarrassment of admitting that we just don’t know, we call this “primary Raynaud’s phenomenon” or even “constitutional” white finger.  However, when we do know the occupational cause of Raynaud’s phenomenon we call it “secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon”!

In the occupational sphere, there are many causes of this secondary condition.  It is most commonly associated with hand-arm vibration syndrome but it is also involved in other occupational diseases.  Awareness of the condition can help prevent the disorder from occurring or progressing, as if not detected in the early stages, the disorder can permanently impair blood circulation in the fingers.

Exposure to vibration from power tools is by far the greatest concern in secondary Raynaud’s.  Hand-held power tools such as chain saws, jackhammers and pneumatic rock drillers and chippers can cause “hand-arm vibration syndrome”.  This disorder is the “vibration white finger”, “hand-arm vibration syndrome (HAVS)”, or “secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon of occupational origin.”  In early years, before the cancer-causing effects of vinyl chloride monomer were known, workers exposed to high levels of this chemical also experienced Raynaud’s phenomenon.

Although Raynaud’s phenomenon is not life threatening, severe cases cause disability and may force workers to leave their jobs and workman’s compensation issues may end up in courts of law.  Although rare, severe cases can lead to breakdown of the skin and gangrene.  Less severely affected workers sometimes have to change their social activities and work habits to avoid attacks of white finger.

The underlying cause relates to the physiology of maintaining an even body temperature.  Usually, the body conserves heat by reducing blood circulation to the extremities, particularly the hands and feet.  This response uses a complex system of nerves and muscles to control blood flow through the smallest blood vessels in the skin.  In people with Raynaud’s phenomenon, this control system becomes too sensitive to cold and greatly reduces blood flow in the fingers.

So that is the story of Raynaud’s phenomenon.  Fortunately, in our warm tropical climate it is rarely seen, other than the occupational secondary variety, but hasn’t it been cold lately!

Read any of the popular press (as opposed to the scientific medical press such as the Lancet, for example) and you will read about vaccines being developed to save us all from AIDS, cancer, next year’s giraffe flu and halitosis.

Unfortunately, the next generation vaccines and drugs are still in the testing phases, because they need rigorous testing.  Remember that in 1976 a vaccine was rushed through by order of an American president, and I believe more people died from the vaccine than died from the flu from which it was supposed to protect the public.  It also left a large number of people with a nasty condition called the Guillain-Barré syndrome, and about 30 percent of those with Guillain-Barré still have a residual weakness.

Have you ever wondered just how a new drug finds its way on to the pharmacist’s shelves?  Just how do the pharmaceutical companies manage to develop newer vaccines and drugs such as ACE inhibitor antihypertensives when there were already plenty of alternatives?  Or the apparently stiff competition in the drugs for males with Erectile Dysfunction.  (I am sure you have all been receiving emails every day offering you longer and stronger lead for your particular pencil!)

However, when any new medication is formulated, there begins a very long process before the new “wonder drug” is licensed for use by the public.  Part of that process is testing the compound on live beings.  Note I did not say “human” beings.  Those live beings are usually convenient test animals, of which Mr. Rat the rodent is a prime example.

We always need to know how poisonous is the new drug.  Mr. Rat is then fed the new compound in ever increasing quantities until the dose high enough to kill 50 percent of the rat population is reached.  The scientists call this the LD50 (Lethal Dose for 50 percent) for the new compound - but remember this is for rats.  If it takes 10 mg of compound A to kill 50 percent of the rats, but only 1 mg of compound B, then B is 10 times stronger than A.

Pregnant Mrs. Rats are also fed the new drug and the offspring are thoroughly examined to see if there are any abnormalities, greater than the ‘normal’ amount of expected abnormalities.  Yes, no animal, including us, is without a usual percentage of birth abnormalities.  Laboratory rats in particular are well known for being able to develop all sorts of abnormalities if you even just look at them sideways!

Only after this exhaustive testing is the drug then used in limited test runs on a very limited human exposure group.  And, by and large, that does not include testing on productive age females.

All this takes an enormous length of time, so next time you read of the new wonder drug “breakthrough” do not expect that this will appear in the pharmacy next week.  Unfortunately too, many of these new drugs will end up never being released as further research often turns up problems that only made themselves apparent after long term usage.

However, even the ones that do get released have to be approached with caution.  Just because rat testing appeared to show that the drug was “safe”, does not mean that humans will also react the same way.  As the caption this week says, Man is not a large Rat!  This is one reason why women in particular must be very careful with the drugs they take during pregnancy, particularly in the first three months, that time when the growing fetal structures are susceptible to toxic chemical damage.  In fact, any woman who has to take regular medication should ask her obstetrician about the relative risks.  However, this does not mean stop taking the tablets as soon as you miss a period.  Letting the maternal problems run unchecked can be an even greater risk to the baby than the risk from the medication taken by Mum.

Antenatal care is a very specialized branch of medicine and I do recommend you should ask your obstetrician for advice.  You may not be a rat - but you don’t want to be a guinea pig either!

Robert Kubica (pronounced “Koo-bit-sa”) and his long-term sponsor, Lotos, have announced their plans for the World Rally Championship (WRC).  The Pole will contest all 13 rounds of next season’s championship with a Lotos-supported Ford Fiesta RS WRC.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013 16:46

Run over any bicycles recently?

In Pattaya the number of cyclists has been steadily rising, as have the accidents involving cyclists.  Motorcycles have their headlights on during the day to make them more visible, but bicycles remain invisible.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013 16:46

Bumper bars?

Have you noticed just how today’s bumper bars just fall off the vehicles they are supposed to protect from minor bumps?  Come on, that’s why they were called “bumper bars” in the first place.  So, how many cars have you seen recently with tape holding the bumper bar in position, both front and rear bars?  Lots, is the answer.

Of course, that is referring to new or nearly new cars.  Old cars had two dumb irons out the front, attached to which was something about the size of a piece of railway line, but it was chromed.  It was bolted in place and it took three days soaking in oil before you could get the nuts to move.  Those were real “bumper bars” made of steel, none of this newfangled plastic stuff.

And when you think about it, just how much use is the thermoformed plastic as a bumper?  About as useful as a hip pocket in a swim suit.  The slightest “bump” when parking, and the retaining clips all fly off and the so-called “bumper” falls on the ground.  In theory, if you could get some new clips, you should be able to affix said bumper back on the car, but like all good theories, they don’t always work in practice.  New clips as a single item do not exist.  They come with a new bumper, they tell me.  And we were all led to believe that the new bumpers would be so much cheaper than repairing the old metal ones, with all that beating and rechroming.  However, I must say that a new one is definitely quicker to replace - provided the clips came with it.

There is another problem relating to the modern bumper bar.  As well as the thermoplastic thing, there is actually another metal bar inside it, spot welded to the body.  In a decent sort of bump, the plastic bar does nothing other than deform, allowing contact with the metal structure underneath, which in turn squashes and bends the bodywork as well.  There was something to be said about the old railway line held on with two big nut and bolts.  It may not have been elegant, but it sure was practical.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013 16:44

Renault announces joint venture with Dongfeng

Carlos Ghosn, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Renault, and Xu Ping, Chairman of Dongfeng Motor, have signed a contract for the creation of a new joint venture company for localized production in China to be called Dongfeng Renault Automotive Company (DRAC).  The final approval by the National Development and Reform Commission of China (NDRC) was granted on 2 December 2013.

Wednesday, 25 December 2013 16:42

Are you driving a deadly vehicle?

Came across an article by an American commentator comparing driver fatalities in differing vehicles.  He based the article on the records from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) to compile and organize the statistics for crash deaths and the vehicles, but they are not current, covering model-year automobiles up to 2008.

The auto safety agency ran the stats on all vehicles with 100,000 registrations or more between 2006 and 2009, counting only the deaths of the driver (not passengers) in their statistics.  In the end, the IIHS calculated a ratio of “driver death per million registered vehicles.”

Now, before reading further, note that these are figures for America, not Thailand, and there can be differences in manufacturing design for similar models that were purchased or manufactured here.  Some of the models were also not sold in Thailand so I have omitted them.

Number 10 on the list was the Chevy Colorado Extended Cab.  The majority of deaths (54 per million) were the result of crashes involving no other vehicle.

Number 8 was the Hyundai Tiburon, and there are a few of these kicking around here.  Tiburon from model years 2005 through 2008 led to 96 fatalities per million registrations.  Some 63 deaths per million registrations involved single-vehicle crashes for drivers of the two-door Tiburon.

Number 5 was the Nissan Titan 2WD extended cab pickup from models years 2005 through 2008.  For every million registrations of the vehicle, 111 drivers met their deaths behind the wheel of a Titan, with a wide majority (77 per million registrations) occurring in single-vehicle crashes.

Number 3 was the Chevy Aveo four door.  The IIHS determined there were 119 driver deaths per million car registrations, split evenly between multiple-vehicle crashes and single-vehicle accidents.  The study also showed that smaller cars were the most dangerous for drivers, with the exception of poorly designed pickups.  SUVs composed the safest class of all.

Number 1 in the IIHS list was the two-door Nissan 350Z from model year 2005 to 2008.  143 deaths per million registrations were recorded for the Nissan 350Z drivers during the study period, with 90 deaths per million registrations occurring in single-vehicle crashes.

Although these figures are not totally relevant, what the statistics do show is that in an accidents you are better off in large vehicles (especially SUV’s) rather than small cars.  With our surge in small eco-car sales in the past two years, will we see an increased number of deaths in accidents?  My gut feeling is yes.

Last week I asked what British pre-war sports car had no driver’s door, but had a passenger’s one?  The answer was as British as you can get - the Bentley 4½ liter of 1930.  Why no driver’s door?  I have no idea.

So to this week.  Which washing machine manufacturer built cars with four reverse gears?

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 .

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