Dr. Iain Corness

Thursday, 27 March 2014 13:33

Malaysian Grand Prix this weekend

Sepang is the host for the second round of the 2014 F1 calendar.  Will we have a repeat of the Australian Grand Prix, or will this be another year of different winners, such as we had in 2012?

Thursday, 27 March 2014 13:30

Stop-Start traffic is the answer?

A couple of weeks ago I tested a Nissan Almera, fitted with Idle-Stop technology, and I began to wonder if the Bangkok traffic has had the answer to fuel economy?  Sit in any of Bangkok’s thousands of taxis and watch the driver turn off the engine when held in traffic.  The simplistic approach being that the vehicle uses no fuel when the motor is turned off, therefore the fuel economy improves.

Thursday, 27 March 2014 13:28

Energy recovery systems for road cars

The recent advances in Formula 1 technology is to extend Renault hybrid and EV range to the road going vehicles.

The new for 2014 F1 V6 engines such as the Renault Sport F1 which develops 567 kW/500 Nm from the 1.6 liter V6 turbo engine captures energy from the waste exhaust gasses and turns it into electricity to drive a hybrid power system.

A turbocharger is also connected to a dual-purpose electric motor which converts up to 40 percent of the waste energy into power.

However, this system which combines a turbo with an electric-motor/generator will also filter down to road cars, predicts Renault Sport F1 head of track operations Remi Taffin.

Renault Sport F1 engineRenault Sport F1 engine

“We get something like 100 kW from the engine just from the exhaust gas.  That’s the part we would like to see on road cars,” he said.

“We have 30 or 40 people at Renault Sport who developed our engine because direct injection and turbo-charging is all used in road car technology,” said Remi Taffin.

The return to turbo-charged engines in Formula 1 has seen a dramatic cut of up to 40 percent in fuel consumption, but with only a minor loss of power over last year’s normally aspirated V8 engines and Remi Taffin believes it is just the start of advances in both race and road car technology.

“There is one area that has not been explored and where Formula 1 is going to get the most out of for lap times - energy recovery systems.  If you look at the extra systems and the electric motors… that is where we are going to get the extra performance.  That’s what we are focusing on.”

This engine technology may be fine for the F1 circus, but I believe there is (currently) not so much of an application to road vehicles.  Performance is a factor, and so is a decrease in fuel consumption, but at what cost to the end user?  If the technology costs more than it saves in running costs, it will be very difficult to sell this concept to the ordinary motorist.

Thursday, 27 March 2014 13:28

Motor Show snippets

Quite a few interesting vehicles at the 35th Bangkok International Motor Show.  Ford has a concept car built on the EcoSport, Suzuki a Limited Edition Swift, Mitsubishi a plug-in Asian Cross Country Rally car, another concept car from Toyota, SAIC have the MG6 on their stand, Porsche has their new Macan (silly name), Hyundai has two new models and an i40 concept, Subaru will unveil the 2015 WRX and Aston Martin has their Q Model.

Over the next few weeks I will expand more on the directions the manufacturers are taking, so expect to see many photos taken at the show.

Thursday, 27 March 2014 13:26

Autotrivia Quiz

Last week I asked what post war German car was named after the designer’s wife?  It was the Borgward Isabella, and quite a few of you got that correct.  I’ll have to make this week’s quiz a little harder.

So to this week.  What car is this?  Built partly in Germany and partly in Italy, V8 with twin Zenith carbs, front disc brakes and the clue is early 60’s.

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 .

Last Friday saw a Joint Chambers networking night being held at the Centara Grand Phratamnak on their rooftop Ruffino restaurant.  Members attended from the Australian Chamber (AustCham), American chamber (AmCham), British Chamber (BCCT), German Thai Chamber (GTCC) and the South African-Thai Chamber of Commerce (SATCC).

Wednesday, 26 March 2014 17:38

Sitting Disease - a new problem?

We have all seen the recommendation that we need to exercise more.  Couch potatoes have been given warnings.  Programs to get the population exercising more have been initiated by governments.  Health Ministers have long been campaigning to get people to do more exercise, but research has shown that even if you spend an hour every night in the gym, prolonged periods of inactivity are still bad for your health.  The way the body deals with sugars and fats when sitting down has been linked to increased risk of diabetes and heart disease, and with some people now sitting for 12 hours a day, whether at work, playing you’re your smartphone, watching TV or in a car, we are the most sedentary humans in history and we could be sitting on a health time bomb.

For many people, their job entails their being desk-bound for the working day, so what is the answer for these people?  What is now being proposed to counter the effects brought on by prolonged sitting, is introducing standing periods to a working day which it is claimed results in improved blood circulation which increases levels of energy, concentration and productivity.

The ‘mechanical’ effects of sitting all day have been well documented.  For example, Sitting causes a sharp reduction in the activity of lipoprotein lipase, which breaks down fats and makes them available to muscles as fuel.  Consequently, if you sit for more than 23 hours per week you are 64 percent more likely to die of heart disease.  (Source: About.com Ergonomics)

Dublin based physical therapist, Mark O’Brien says, “I am seeing a huge rise in the number of people attending my clinic with posture related complaints that have developed as a result of prolonged sitting.  Just getting up off your backside for an extra three to four hours per day while at work and at home can reduce these problems.”

Now, as opposed to sitting, standing at work can be beneficial.  The constant muscle activity of standing allows the body to keep blood sugar levels stable, which is proven to help maintain concentration and focus.  (Source: About.com Ergonomics)

By standing for three hours per day, over the course of a year, office workers will burn an amount of extra calories that is equivalent to running 10 marathons.  (Which is 10 more than most of us do per year!)  That is 3.5 kg of fat burned each year, just by a slight change to working habits.  (Source: BBC)

Now if you want some testimonials, Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, Benjamin Franklin and Leonardo da Vinci were all famous advocates of standing desks, as opposed to sitting desks.  (Source: The Economist)

Mind you, ‘standing’ all day has its problems healthwise as well, mainly related to the spine, hips joints, knees and ankles.  So what is the answer to all this?

There are a couple of ways this problem can be approached.  For those stuck in the office, they can look at desks which have a variable height.  After a few hours of sitting, they can then stand up and work standing for a couple of hours.  There is one available in the UK called a Varidesk (http://uk.varidesk.com), which claims that with its spring-assisted smooth lifting mechanism, users can change position without disturbing their cup of coffee, let alone the flow of their day.  This desk even comes with an app that will remind the sitter when it is time to stand.  (Why it needs an app, when an alarm clock will do the same job, I do not know.)

Now, despite Winston Churchill and Leonardo da Vinci, standing down and sitting up has its limitations.  Interspersed with positional changes in the office environment, there is something else you can do - and that is called ‘walking’.

How many of you telephone others in your workplace?  Just about all of you?  There is one chap in the next office to mine who rings me, rather than walking the 20 meters to talk to me face to face!

So here is the answer.  Sit for an hour, walk for 10 minutes, stand for an hour, walk for 10 minutes, sit for another hour then walk to lunch, and repeat in the afternoon.  Try it!

Thursday, 20 March 2014 14:25

Bangkok International Motor Show

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 26 to April 6.

I will be present for the Press Day (March 25) and will be featuring some of the more interesting vehicles over the next few weeks in this column.

Thursday, 20 March 2014 14:23

Porsche reveals the Le Mans 919 Hybrid

More than a year after announcing its plans to return to the top flight of sports car racing, Porsche has finally revealed its Le Mans race car.

Thursday, 20 March 2014 14:22

What did we learn from the Australian GP?

The first thing we learned is that there are some very talented youngsters out there.  Ricciardo (Red Bull), Magnussen (McLaren) and Bottas (Williams) excelled and gave no quarter to anyone, irrespective of their reputation.

We also learned that the Australian F1 enthusiasts have not forgotten The Finger’s ignoring of team orders to take Mark Webber’s win away from him, cheering wildly when Vettel did not make Q3.  They were also ecstatic at Ricciardo’s P2 in Qualifying and his second in the Grand Prix (until the FIA axe fell - see later).

The new engines have a totally different exhaust note, described by our Editor at Large (John Weinthal) as a “coffee grinder racket”.  Agree, agree!

With Mercedes on P1 (Hamilton) and P3 (Rosberg), it was expected that the two Mercedes cars would motor off into the distance, having been favorites ever since their (almost) trouble free practice sessions.  With Rosberg making a blinder of a start to head Ricciardo and then Hamilton out on lap 3 with a Mercedes engine failure, the complexion of the race changed right from the start.  Rosberg was in charge all the way, winning by over 20 seconds.

In the Red Bull camp, current F1 Champion Vettel was out one lap after Hamilton with an engine failure as well (this time a Renault), but out front, Riccardio circulated smoothly.  Unable to mix it with Rosberg, he was unchallenged to the end, even though rookie Magnussen got close towards the end, Riccardio had everything under control.

Jenson Button in the “lead” McLaren followed third placed Magnussen (son of former star Jan Magnussen), but was never in the position to challenge for the podium position.  Ron Dennis, the CEO of McLaren was seen smiling, something rare in the past couple of seasons, where McLaren failed to gain even a podium in 2013.

Ferrari was there, but Alonso and Raikkonen (5th and 8th) were just down on power, and even though Alonso could get into the DRS zone, he still did not have enough power to pass.

I had predicted a 50 percent attrition, but it was not quite that bad - only 40 percent!  The non-finishers included both “Lotus” (Grosjean and Maldonado) and both Caterhams (Kobayashi and Ericsson).  Not many happy chappies in their pits on the Sunday night.

‘Krasher’ Kobayashi (Caterham) had tangled with Massa (Williams F1 after many years at Ferrari) on the first lap, prompting Massa to call for a one race ban for Kobayashi; however, it was shown to the stewards that Kobayashi’s rear brakes failed and the accident was unavoidable.  Sorry Felipe!

And now to the exclusion of second place getter Daniel Ricciardo.  Five hours after the race ended, the FIA handed down an exclusion, stripping Ricciardo of his second position.  The nub of the matter is a fuel flow monitor, supplied by the FIA, which the teams are obliged to run.  Red Bull found that the flow meter was unreliable and chose to regulate the fuel flow themselves.  The FIA acknowledged that the meter was giving different readings each time the car went out, but used their usual heavy-handed response that irrespective of all else, it had to be used.  (From the FIA statement: “…although the sensor showed a difference in readings between runs in P1, it remains the homologated and required sensor against which the team is obliged to measure their fuel flow, unless given permission by the FIA to do otherwise.”)  Red Bull have appealed the decision.

The next round of the championship is Malaysia March 30, with the race starting at 3 p.m. Thai time.

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