However enjoyable it is on the road, you can never really set it free. To do that you need to go on track. Warming up in the paddock at Cadwell Park, I lower the pressures on the Pirelli Supercorsa SP rubber, select Race mode and that’s it, we’re ready to go.
The Öhlins suspension is semi-active, so will do all the hard work for you as it reacts to your inputs and the track; no spanners required. The Speciale feels narrow, nimble and light, especially through Hall Bends.
I don’t expect a bike with so much power to be so flickable. It’s a slightly alien feeling; big-capacity bikes are usually such a handful in the tight sections but the Speciale isn’t.
The same bore as Ducati’s V4 MotoGP motor and a longer stroke means a capacity of 1103cc. It’s the same engine housed in the V4S.
But now the Speciale is fitted with a Ducati by Performance Akrapovic full exhaust system, which adds 12bhp, increases torque by 5.16ftlb and reduces weight by another 6kg.
In the first few gears there’s a charismatic backfire between gear changes that becomes addictive. And the quickshifter/blipper is utterly seamless, even at low road speeds. You find yourself dancing on the lever just to enjoy the sensory assault.
At tickover it isn't offensive
At tickover it isn’t offensive, but blip the throttle and it’ll turn pensioners’ blue rinses white. It shouldn’t work on the road. That excess of power, the brutal delivery and horizon-compressing speed should conspire against you. But it’s a wildly addictive, soul-enriching experience.
Even over the famous Mountain at Cadwell Park, the Panigale's clever electronics prevent you from being launched at the Moon. The front still lifts, but then you’re enveloped in the system’s control, and you’re almost instantly driving hard again, rather than catching air.
It's like flying a jet plane down a school corridor
Down the two main straights everything gets frighteningly fast. Cadwell Park is so narrow that you feel like you’re flying a jet plane down a school corridor.
I’m so used to riding V-twin Ducatis (and the V4 feels like a V-twin) that I kept short-shifting at 12,000rpm, well short of the redline.
The additional ponies are hard to detect on track. The S would be just as quick in the hands of all but a BSB rider. But does that matter? Of course not. Not when you feel this Speciale.
There is no reason to question the new V4, we haven’t uncovered any horror stories yet. Minor services are annual or every 7500 miles, while the dreaded Desmo service isn’t until 15,000 miles. With chain-driven cams, there are no belts to change like on pre-Panigale V-twin Ducatis.
Many of these bikes will be pampered to within an inch of their life, too and some will rarely see the road, let alone a trackday. However, with a 24 month warranty, there is support should you need it.
In pure performance terms, the Ducati Panigale V4 Speciale is not £11k better than the S. But you don’t buy a Speciale because it makes performance sense. You buy one because you want it, love it, can’t sleep for thinking about it.
Running cost are going to be eye-watering with the Speciale though and tyres will be eaten at an alarming rate and on track we burnt a full tank of fuel in 60 miles.
Logic isn’t welcome here though. It’s the sexiest and most desirable superbike on the planet and the fastest out of the blocks. And at £359pm on PCP there’ll be more demand for what is the most exciting ownership experience you can buy than there is supply available.
The Speciale has been parked in my garage all day. It’s not moved. It’s neither living nor breathing, yet I keep visiting it, brew in hand, just to make sure it’s okay.
I’ve been testing bikes for 20 years and few have such magnetic appeal when stationary. But the Speciale does.
The dashes of carbon add to the appeal and the race exhaust looks as good as it sounds. The cheap-looking plastic around the standard exhaust has been binned in favour of carbon.
Even the brake lever guard makes me smile
I love the multi-adjustable pegs, they’re both more practical and have that factory allure. Even the brake lever guard makes me smile.
And when you do take it out into the daylight it turns heads everywhere you go. The booming full-race titanium exhaust grabs everyone’s attention and the styling keeps them looking.
There are very few bikes that can match this for exclusivity and desirability.
For 2019 Ducati have added the V4 Speciale Corse, which boasts a special paintjob that draws on last year’s WDW specials, a single seat unit with Alcantara rider pad and a premium of £1900 over the S.