Alain Menu took a relatively easy win in the first World Touring Car Championship race at Suzuka, beating Chevrolet team-mates Yvan Muller and Rob Huff for his fourth win of the season.
Menu, who took pole position in qualifying, was never headed during the race which he controlled from start to finish. Muller finished less than a second behind but was unable to find a way past his Swiss team-mate around the Suzuka circuit, where overtaking is notoriously difficult.
Muller’s main championship rival, Huff, finished a close third but aside from some slight rubbing on the opening lap, was unable to find a way past his French rival.
Gabriele Tarquini finished in fourth, having jumped from sixth on the grid to fourth at the rolling start. That left Alex MacDowall to finish in fifth and as the top driver in the Yokohama Independents for only the second time this season.
Alexei Dudukalo scored his third points finish of the season in sixth, although the young Russian had plenty of defending to do throughout the race. Indeed Mehdi Bennani, who had started in fifth, made an attempt to pass the SEAT driver on the 22nd lap which resulted in a spin for the Moroccan, dropping him to 21st and out of contention.
Dutchman Tom Coronel, who took victory in the second race in 2011, finished in seventh, ahead of Pepe Oriola, who scored his first points since taking a career-best second position in Portugal.
Stefano D’Aste finished in ninth, ahead of Tiago Monteiro in the brand new Honda Civic, who scored a point on the début of the new works Honda campagin.
Franz Engstler just missed out on the points in 11th, ahead of Darryl O’Young who took 12th on his return to bamboo engineering.
Winning the battle for 13th was Tom Boardman, who endured a race-long battle with Norbert Michelisz in 14th. The duo ran nose-to-tail throughout the race, but ultimately Hungarian Michelisz could not find his way past the Brit.
Alberto Cerqui was the race’s only retirement, spinning out on lap 14 whilst trying to pass local driver Hiroki Yoshimoto for 17th.
René Münnich made his début for Special Tuning Racing, with the German finishing in 19th in his first WTCC race.
The second race from Japan takes place at 15:50 JST (07:50 BST, 08:50 CET).