So, the covers are off, the manufacturers have made their move and Ducati has blown everyone out of the water with the Panigale V4R, its WSBK homologation special. WSBK is a production-based race series, which sees tweaked versions of the actual bikes you can go and buy race against one another in competition – and this is why the V4R exists; to allow Ducati to take the WSBK fight to Kawasaki and wrestle the title out of the hands of the all-conquering Johnny Rea. The new Panigale V4R runs a 998cc version of the Desmosedici Stradale 90-degree V4, with the stroke shortened from 53.5 mm to 48.4 mm, and the 81 mm bore untouched, essentially taking an extremely oversquare and rev-focused motor and making it significantly more oversquare and revvy. The engine internals have also lost a fair bit of weight: the pistons are forged, with just two piston rings (one for compression, the other an oil scraper) and the crankshaft, high-lift valves and con rods are titanium. The crank alone saves an astonishing 1.1kg over the version used in the1103cc bikes, whereas the con rods save 100g each. So as well as having less distance to travel with each revolution thanks to the shorter stroke, there's significantly less mass to move as well. That means Ducati can rev this thing much higher than the 1103cc version: the V4S revs to 13,000rpm, and the R version keeps on pulling, up to a crazy 15,250rpm. So the new R bike loses torque, which drops from a peak of 124Nm in the S bike down to 114Nm in the R, but gains significant horsepower at the top of its new stratospheric rev range: while the S bike makes 214bhp, the R boosts this to 221 in fully road-legal trim. Bin the legal cans for the Performance kit from Akrapovic and that horsepower figure leaps to 234 ponies. The bodywork is notably different too, thanks to the gills on the side fairings, as well as the silver rear of the tank, the overall larger and higher front fairing and those black carbon winglets behind the headlights. Ducati, of course, was the first manufacturer to push winglet technology in MotoGP, and even though that series has banned them, WSBK continues to allow their use. Other stand out features include the Brembo Stylema brakes, traction, wheelie and control, cornering ABS Evo, up/down quickshifting, engine brake control, three riding modes, pit lane limiter, lap timing, data analysis and multimedia Bluetooth systems.