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.
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.
Honda’s Q2 report is out (the report is technically Honda’s Q1 fiscal report), and Big Red is showing some positive gains in 2012 thus far. With unit sales up 12% in Q2 2012 over Q2 2011, Honda is also posting a tidy revenue increase of 42% (¥2,435.9 billion, or $31 billion), while net income is also up 315% to ¥131.7 billion ($405 million). Honda doesn’t breakout its consolidated financial report into regional figures, though it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to note that these gains are likely being made primarily in Southeast Asia, and other developing markets.
Closer to home though, things are still on the up-and-up. Honda America reports 59,000 units sold in Q2 2012, up 28% from the 46,000 units it sold during the same time period last year. It should be noted of course that when reading reports from this past quarter that Q2 2011 was weighed-down heavily by the effects of the Tōhoku earthquake and following tsunami.
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.
Harley-Davidson had some good news to report in its Q2 2011 financial report, as the Milwaukee company reports selling 53,599 units to customers in the US during the three-month period, and total of 83,396 units worldwide (120,642 units worldwide so far this year). These sales figures translate into a 5.6% sales increase worldwide, and an even more impressive 7.5% sales bump in the United States market.
While those increases might seem modest, CEO Keith Wandell’s restructuring efforts have clearly been paying off for the Bar & Shield brand as operating income was up 36.8% for Q2, while revenue was up only 18% to $1.34 billion. This is also the first year-over-year quarterly rise for unit sales that Harley-Davidson has seen since the Q4 2006. Read that last sentence again, but it’s sort of a big deal for Harley-Davidson.
BMW Motorrad continues to post improved sales in 2011, as the German manufactuer is showing a 2.1% increase for last month’s sales compared to June 2010. Selling 11,831 motorcycles in June of this year, BMW has sold 141,913 motorcycles in the first half of 2011, which means 6.3% more Bavarian motorcycles have been sold in Q1 & Q2 of 2011 compared to last year. BMW’s Boxer series is unsurprisingly leading sales for the company, fueled by the best selling big-displacement motorcycle in the world: the R1200GS.
BMW is reporting strong sales from the K1600 series as well though, with 1,255 units sold since its Spring 2011 debut. While BMW says that the new six-cylinder tourer is exceeding expectations, Husqvarna’s paltry 450 units sold last month is perhaps a bit of disappointment. Husky sales were down -57.3% for June, while year-to-date sales were down -24.2% with only 3,530 units sold in the first half of 2011.
Here’s one to wrap your mind around: Suzuki sold more motorcycles in the last 9 months of 2010 than it did in same time period in 2009, but somehow managed to make less money on those sales. Selling 975,000 units in Q2-Q4 of 2010, Suzuki scored an encouraging 6.1% sales increase, but the Japanese company made only ¥186.3 billion in revenue ($2.26 billion USD), which was down 4.6% from the ¥195.2 billion ($2.37 billion USD) made in the same timeframe in 2009. Puzzling, no?
According to Polaris Industries, Victory motorcycle sales were up 48% in the second quarter of 2010. Polaris’ on-road division, which is essentially the Victory cruiser brand, posted sales of $15.5 million, up from the $10.5 million in sales the company did in Q2 2010. In North American, sales for Victory cruisers were up 10% over last quarter, the third quarter in-a-row of sales growth for the brand.