Those who fear a Marquez whitewash at the Circuit of the Americas could draw some comfort from the raw numbers on the timesheets as Saturday progressed.
Marquez’s gap from Friday was cut dramatically, first to under a second in FP3, then to a third of a second in FP4, before being slashed to less than three tenths in qualifying. Is the end of Marquez’s dominance at Austin in sight?
But raw numbers are deceptive. Sure, the gap in single lap times is small, but there is still no one who can get close to the reigning world champion. Marquez’s four flying laps were faster than the best laps by any other rider on the grid.
Second place man Dani Pedrosa’s fastest lap was still slower than Marquez’s slowest. In FP4, Marquez punched out four laps in the 2’03s, while the best anyone else could do is lap in the 2’04s.
During the morning FP3 session, Marquez racked up five 2’03s, while only Pedrosa could manage two 2’03s, Stefan Bradl, Andrea Dovizioso and Bradley Smith managing only a single solitary lap under 2’04.
Where the others took eight or nine tenths off their best time during qualifying, Marquez only improved on his previous best by a quarter of a second.
“It looks like Marc always rides at qualifying pace,” Jorge Lorenzo’s team manager Wilco Zeelenberg quipped. Given the string of 2’03s Marquez hammered out on hard tires in race trim during FP4, that bodes ill for the rest of the riders.
A measure of just how confident and comfortable Marquez is at Austin – a local journalist finally got the Spaniard to admit that the circuit favors the Honda, a small triumph in itself – came during FP4, and then again during qualifying.
In Q2, Marquez lost the front in the tight left-hander, saved it, nearly lost it again, then got on the gas again as if nothing had happened. In FP4, while testing a change to the weight distribution, Marquez found himself running straight on at the end of the back straight three laps in a row.
On one lap, the rear came up as he hit one of the few bumps on the circuit, and instead of struggling to regain control, Marquez tried to control it and carry it on as far as possible. He grinned as he recounted the experience to the press conference. This young man is in his element, which bodes ill for the competition.
MV Agusta continues to build a head of steam with its sales reports, as the Varese-based company is reporting a 22% growth in the first quarter of 2014, over the same time period from last year.
Ending 2013 up 20% overall, the MV Agusta sales increase can mainly be attributed to the company’s three-cylinder models, the MV Agusta F3 675/800, MV Agusta Brutale 675/800, and MV Agusta Rivale 800.
With the MV Agusta Turismo Veloce 800 and MV Agusta Brutale 800 Dragster also recently shown to the public, the Italian company certainly has some more sales growth still to do. Also, let us not forget that MV Agusta promised us one more model to debut in early 2014.
Don’t call it a comeback, because even though the US motorcycle industry beat the Motorcycle Industry Council’s projections last year, sales so far for 2013 are looking less than stellar in the first-half of the year.
Down 5.2% from January to June, motorcycle sales were hit mostly by abysmal losses in the scooter segment (23.3%), and helped along by modest losses in the on-road segment (5.3%). Adding more to the misery, dual-sports suffered a 3.4% drop in the first half of the year, though surprisingly off-road bikes showed a gain, increasing 5.4% over Q1 & Q2.
Ducatisti: do you want the good news or the bad news first? The bad news is that the market for motorcycles 500cc and up is down 17% worldwide for the first quarter of this year, which means the “good” news is that Ducati is only down 5% for Q1 2013.
Not exactly the start out of the gate that Audi was hoping for its newly acquired two-wheeled brand, but what are you going to do? Western Europe is a mess, with Spain and Italy continuing to go down like a…well, you know.
Even the American market is on a slight decline for the first quarter, after showing signs of hitting rock bottom earlier last year. Accordingly Ducati sold 1,605 units in the USA — it’s the largest market by volume.
So why are we a bit giddy here at Asphalt & Rubber? Well while we don’t enjoy the misery of motorcycle brands, the fact that Ducati Motor Holding is now under the Audi AG umbrella means that we get far more detailed quarterly and yearly reports from the two-wheeled marque.
Want to know which Ducati model is out-selling them all? How about how many of each model were produced versus how many were sold? We’ve got the digits after the jump.
The untold story of the global economic collapse, Honda was on a worrisome three-year downward spiral during the recession. Posting sales of 453,000, 320,000, & 189,000 powersport units in 2008, 2009, and 2010 respectively, Honda’s 2011 fiscal year sales figure of 200,000 units posts a 8.1% gain for the Japanese company, and a new healthier trajectory.
Helping the company turn that corner, Honda has reported that its Q1 2012 (Q4 2011 fiscal) sales were up 39% over last year’s figures. Selling 53,000 powersports models in the last three months, Honda is projecting that its 2012 fiscal year will see 255,000 units in North American.
Posting its seventh consecutive quarter of sales growth, Ducati North America has started 2012 on the right foot, posting a 10.2% sales increase in its first quarter over last year’s figures. Seeing growth in all three of its national markets (Canada, Mexico, & USA), Ducati North America managed to buck the trend all through the recent recession, and now with the economy heating up again, the Italian brand continues to see strong sales growth. Ducati’s apparel and accessories sales were also up in Q1, posting a 98% increase over last year’s figures.
Despite showing a rebound for 2011, and several brands posting strong growth over the past six months, industry-wide motorcycle sales in the United States grew only a modest 1.7% over the first six months of 2010. The news comes as Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki report continued sales decreases in 2011, and as the Japanese brands constitute a large portion of sales in the US, those losses have more than offset the record sales posted by smaller unit sellers like Ducati and BMW.