Everything seemed fine. Sublime, actually. Outskirts of Nagoya, in a tweaked F430, pulling back on the paddle for fourth gear, hard on the throttle, revs climbing, engine screaming and traffic politely moving over.
Then, as I was just starting to get a feel for the car, came the lost-in-translation moment. On the GPS came a women's voice, something in Japanese, which I don't speak. Having ignored her earlier announcements, I kept my foot in it. Then, from the passenger seat, Mr. Tanii, manager of ASI said in English, "Speed camera! Slow!"
I stepped hard on the Brembos to wipe off speed, the Performance Friction race pads, which were squeaky and touchy around town, brought us safely below the speed limit before the cameras came into view. No drama; the car was perfectly stable thanks to a firm set of Sachs coilovers and extra aero downforce from the wing and body kit. Unfazed as well, Mr. Tanii gave me directions to the restaurant for lunch.
Japan's probably not the first place-but definitely not the last-you'd think to find a company that tunes Ferraris. Their tuners are more famous for 1000-horsepower Nissan Skylines, Toyota Supras, nimble Mugen Hondas, and brutally effective Mitsubishi EVOs. With so many good cars available for tuning, and the Japanese tendency toward insularity, tuning of European cars seems an anomaly. But horsepower, speed and handling are universal terms and the world is becoming a flat, level playing field.
ASI, an acronym of accuracy, spirit, and imagination, was founded by Satoshi Kondo in 2007, but that wasn't when he personally started modifying exotica. Inspired by a Testarossa-based Koenig Competition Spider, Kondo bought a Testarossa and proceeded to chop the top, re-enforce the chassis, and fortify the engine to create a one-off that still sits in his garage today.
ASI's styling and tuning program for the F430 includes, most noticeably, front are rear bumpers that have been re-sculpted to seem more track-inspired. The side vents on the front bumper fuse elements of the Scuderia and F430 GT2 and the side skirts' intakes extend further than stock to draw in more air. The rear bumper relocates the exhaust pipes to a position similar to the Scuderia's. However, a stock F430 exhaust can still be used and routed to end where the tips normally exit, lower and to the sides. For the weight-conscious, ASI claims to have shaved 60 pounds with this body kit. To top it off, ASI offers three kinds of dry carbon rear wings. The one pictured here is the Type 2 street wing. It has been flawlessly finished and blended into the car's lines instead of dominating or unbalancing them.
Protruding from the rear bumper is a stainless steel exhaust system, which was developed with Ito Racing. Together with a revised ECU, ASI claims an increase of 30 hp, with emphasis on increased mid-range torque. The system adds low-frequency depth while also allowing the engine to shriek only as only a high-strung Ferrari V8 can. While there wasn't a stock F430 for comparison, I can say that ASI's car had plenty of meaty midrange that made it feel bigger than 4.3 liters.
Underneath, ASI replaced the stock suspension with the aforementioned Sachs coilovers and adjusted the settings to their liking. The ride around town is expectedly firm but surprisingly compliant over dips and bumps at highway speed. As this car spends a lot of time on the track, ASI upgraded the brake rotors to 14.5-inch slotted discs and also asked Brembo to supply narrower 6-piston calipers to clear the wheels the company mounts its racing slicks on. And to keep the driver in position, lightweight Bride racing seats were also installed.
Before going to drive and shoot ASI's F430, there were fears that I might have a PF Chang's experience-Chinese food cooked by non-Chinese never tastes right. In this case, an Italian car tuned by Japanese could be disastrous. Luckily, that isn't the case with ASI's work. The quality is world class, the attention to detail obsessive, the finished product lust-worthy.
2009 Ferrari F430
Longitudinal mid engine, rear-wheel drive
4.3-liter V8, dohc, 32-valve. Stainless steel exhaust, remapped ECU
Six-speed sequential manual
Six-piston Brembo calipers, 14.5-inch slotted rotors
Wheels & Tires
ASI forged alloys, Michelin Pilot Sport PS2
ASI front and rear bumpers, side skirts, rear wing
Peak Power: 520 hp @ 8300 rpm
Peak Torque: 360 lb-ft @ 5000 rpm
0-60 mph: 3.9 sec.
Top Speed: 195 mph (est.)