• Ducati Grew Motorcycle Sales In 2016

    Claudio Domenicali will be a happy CEO, as Ducati grew motorcycle sales in 2016. The total for the year was 55,451 motorcycles delivered. That’s up 1.2% on 2015, which meant 642 extra bikes. “Ending the year of our 90th anniversary with yet another record is a source of immense pride and satisfaction”, commented Domenicali. “2016 was the seventh consecutive growth year for Ducati, clearly confirming the soundness of the Bologna-based group’s strategy and skills.”

    The growth came from a mix of existing and new models. Sales of the Multistrada range were up 16%, the renewed HyperMotards were up 15%, and apparently 5,200 of the new Ducati XDiavel were also delivered.

    Ducati Multistrada 950

    2017 Ducati Multistrada 950

    The Ducati Scrambler brand gained both the new Scrambler Sixty2 and 15,500 bikes shifted.

    In terms of location, America was the biggest market for Ducati, with customers receiving 8,787 bikes. Following up is Italy, which saw 20% growth, and Germany up 8%. There were also big gaines in Spain (+38%), China (+120%), Brazil (+36%) and Argentina (+219%).

    2017 Ducati XDiavel S

    2017 Ducati XDiavel S

    For 2017, Ducati will launch seven new bikes, including the Ducati Multistrada 950, SuperSport and 1299 Superleggera. The Monster range will see the new 797 and 1200, while the Scrambler brand gets the Cafe Racer and Desert Sled. For stats fans, Ducati currently employs 1,594 people, has a network of 783 sales and assistance centres and operates in 90 countries.

    Ducati Motor Holdings Factory in Bologna

    Ducati Motor Holdings Factory in Bologna

    What isn’t clear yet is how price rises in the UK will affect sales. Since January 1st, Ducati has raised prices by an average of 4.8% due to the devaluing of the pound following the EU Referendum, which means, for example, the Ducati Monster 821 has gone from £9,150 to £9,595. The increases haven’t been applied evenly though, as the HyperMotard 939 only increased by £300, and the Ducati Panigale R actually stays the same price.

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  • ‘17 FIAT 124 SPIDER: CLASSICAL GAS!

    It’s what happens when you take a Mazda Miata and add a little Italian brio, blogs Road Test Editor, Howard Walker.

    Ready for a little Italian conversation class? Start by repeating after me: Bella piccolo macchina. Now say it with feeling, and maybe with an Italian-style shrug of the shoulders and upturned palms. The literal translation is ‘beautiful little machine’. And it’s also exactly how you’d describe Fiat’s new magnifico 124 Spider two-seater. Bella indeed.

    You might have heard about this new 124. It was developed hand-in-hand with Mazda – yep, I scratched my head too when I first read that piece of news. Fiat borrowed the underbody structure of Mazda’s much-loved Miata MX-5 and wrapped it with its own bodyshell – every panel is unique to the 124 – and squeezed in its own piccolo engine. Just don’t call it a Fiata!

    Makes sense. These days, small, affordable, old-school sports cars – even with $25-grand starting stickers – sell about as well as electric typewriters and Filofax planners. So it was tough for Fiat to justify going it alone to build a new 124. Split the costs with Mazda, send the two cars down the same production line in Japan, and it becomes a lot more financially sound.

    As much as I love the little MX-5, I have more amore for this little Fiat. It has oodles of styling cues from Fiat’s classic 1970s 124 Spider – the twin power bulges on the hood, the distinctive front grille, rear fenders that look like Joan Collins’ shoulder-pads in Dynasty. It’s also around five inches longer than the Mazda, which somehow makes it feel less dainty, more substantial.

    And while it would have been so much easier for Fiat to stick with the MX-5’s trusty 2-0-liter SkyActive four-banger, full credit to them for wanting to use their own 1.4-liter Multiair turbo from the plucky Fiat 500 Abarth. Not that there’s much difference in power; 160-horsepower for the Fiat, 155 for the Mazda, though the 124 gets a 36 pound-foot hike in torque which kinda counters the Fiat’s extra 100 pounds in weight.

    Thankfully they stuck with the MX-5’s brilliant folding canvas top. To me, it’s still the benchmark for a manual roof. Flip a lever, flop the top back to stow on the rear deck, 10 seconds max. And you do it with one hand. While in the car.

    So what’s it like to drive? Bellissimo. The whole point of a two-seater like this is for it to be fun, and to put a big smile on your face. And the little Fiat delivers. The fizzy turbo engine provides a ton of thrust to get you off the line fast, to zip you past slower traffic, and to punch you out of a tight bend.

    Interestingly our tester came with a six-speed automatic rather than the knife-through-butter-precise six-speed stick. My initial reaction was ‘no way’. But for our arrow-straight, traffic-congested Florida roads, it makes perfect sense. The shifts are smooth, it’s eager to kickdown and there’s manual shifting if you feel the need.

    Fiat offers three 124 Spiders to choose from. The base Classica kicks off at $24,995. Then there’s the leather-trimmed Lusso I’ve been driving with the bigger 17-inch alloys and silver windshield surround. For performance fans, there’s the feistier 124 Abarth with tighter suspension that starts at $28,195.

    Why would anyone buy a 124 Spider? It’s a fun, affordable ‘toy’ that’s a blast to drive, especially top-down on a blue-sky Florida winter day. And if you remember with affection the old 124 Spider, this car will rekindle those nostalgic memories.

     

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  • Drivers confirm tyre choices for China

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    Ferrari have chosen more super-soft tyres than Mercedes for next week’s Chinese Grand Prix.

    Sebastian Vettel and Kimi Raikkonen will have six sets of the softest rubber available compared to five for the Mercedes pair. Lewis Hamilton is alone among the four leading drivers in opting for four sets of the medium compound rubber.

    Williams, McLaren and Haas have all opted to take seven sets of the softest available rubber.

    The top four drivers in last year’s race all used two sets of soft tyres followed by a set of mediums.

  • Rosberg eases to win in thrilling Chinese Grand Prix

    Nico Rosberg made it three wins from three by easing to the chequered flag in the Chinese Grand Prix.

    A chaotic start created an exhilarating start which saw collisions between the two Ferrari’s creating problems for Lewis Hamilton as he lost his front wing.

    Despite colliding with his team mate, Sebastian Vettel joined his compatriot on the podium to take second with Red Bulls Daniil Kvyat finishing in third.

    At the start Daniel Ricciardo managed to get past Nico Rosberg but the action behind changed the race.

    At turn one and going into two, Kimi Raikkonen’s Ferrari locked up with team mate Sebastian Vettel right next to him, Daniil Kvyat stormed up the inside, Vettel was left with no room and was forced to hit his team mate.

    Vettel was furious during the race and quickly came onto the team radio, calling the Russian ‘sucidal’ and a ‘madman’.

    As Raikkonen rejoined the track, Sauber’s Marcus Ericsson was forced to avoid the Ferrari and he hit Lewis Hamilton’s Mercedes.

    The triple world champion’s front wing dislodged and eventually he drove over it.

    Both Raikkonen and Hamilton returned to the pits for new front wings.

    Daniel Ricciardo’s lead was short lived when a puncture hit the Australian’s left rear forcing him to head to the pits too, but with bits of front wing and tyre scattered over the track, the safety car was brought out the clear the circuit.

    The introduction of the safety car created a hectic time in the pits, Vettel overtook drivers on the entry to the pit lane while Jenson Button managed to avoid collisions in the pits with Force India double stacking.

    After the pits, Raikkonen, Vettel and Hamilton started a fantastic comeback up the pack.

    Nico Rosberg had a quiet and comfortable race up at the front, but behind there was overtaking galore which produced a stunning race.

    The variety of strategies helped the Ferrari’s to slice their way through the field and eventually Vettel despite further front wing damage after a tight overtake on Valtteri Bottas, was able to move up to finish in second.

    Raikkonen also got through much of the field end up in fifth.

    But for Lewis Hamilton his strategy failed to give him a push to the sharper end of the grid with the Mercedes struggling in the dirty air of the various cars he attempted to get past.

    He was stuck for some time behind Williams’ Felipe Massa but all the while Daniel Ricciardo closed up on the Briton, the Red Bull then pulled off a brilliant lunge down the inside of turn six.

    By the time of the chequered flag, all 22 drivers managed to complete the race, only the sixth time in F1 history that the entire field has done so.

    2016 Pirelli Chinese Grand Prix results

    1 Nico ROSBERG- MERCEDES
    2 Sebastian VETTEL- FERRARI
    3 Daniil KVYAT- RED BULL
    4 Daniel RICCIARDO- RED BULL
    5 Kimi RAIKKONEN- FERRARI
    6 Felipe MASSA- WILLIAMS
    7 Lewis HAMILTON- MERCEDES
    8 Max VERSTAPPEN- TORO ROSSO
    9 Carlos SAINZ- TORO ROSSO
    10 Valtteri BOTTAS- WILLIAMS
    11 Sergio PEREZ- FORCE INDIA
    12 Fernando ALONSO- MCLAREN
    13 Jenson BUTTON- MCLAREN
    14 Esteban GUTIERREZ- HAAS
    15 Nico HULKENBERG- FORCE INDIA
    16 Marcus ERICSSON- SAUBER
    17 Kevin MAGNUSSEN- RENAULT
    18 Pascal WERHLEIN- MANOR
    19 Romain GROSJEAN- HAAS
    20 Felipe NASR- SAUBER
    21 Rio HARYANTO- MANOR
    22 Jolyon PALMER- RENAULT

  • Hulkenberg picks up penalty after tyre incident

    Nico Hulkenberg, Force India, Shanghai International Circuit, 2016Nico Hulkenberg has been handed a three-place grid drop for Sunday’s 2016 Formula 1 Pirelli Chinese Grand Prix after his Force India team were found guilty of releasing his car from the pits in an unsafe condition during qualifying.

    Hulkenberg’s machine shed its front left wheel at Turn 10 towards the end of the Q2, bringing out the red flags and preventing several drivers from improving their times.

    The German finished the session in 10th place, though he could take no part in Q3 as his car had already stopped out on circuit.

    Hulkenberg’s penalty drops him from 10th to 13th on the grid, promoting Williams’ Felipe Massa to 10th and the McLarens of Fernando Alonso and Jenson Button to 11th and 12th respectively.

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