Giovanardi, Alfa's only serious challenger for the inaugural WTCC crown, had qualified fourth behind the Italian manufacturer's three other cars. However, he was able to proceed to the front of the Alfa train unchallenged and ran out a clear winner ahead of teammate James Thompson.
The Alfa 156s dominated the race and looked set to block out the top four positions, until front right punctures struck Gabriele Tarquini and Augusto Farfus Jr on the final lap.
Alfa's misfortune played into the hands of BMW driver Andy Priaulx. The Briton claimed the final place on the podium, despite starting the final lap in sixth place.
Rickard Rydell was the first SEAT home in fifth place, while Alex Zanardi benefited from the misfortune of those ahead of him to jump from ninth to sixth in the closing stages.
Tarquini and Farfus limped home in seventh and eighth positions, which gave them the front row for race two.
Independents' honours went to Carl Rosbenblad Eje Elgh Motorsport-run Crawford Racing BMW.
Pos Driver Make Time
1. Fabrizio Giovanardi Alfa Romeo 156 21:12.294
2. James Thompson Alfa Romeo 156 + 2.794
3. Andy Priaulx BMW 320i + 6.134
4. Antonio Garcia BMW 320i + 6.893
5. Rickard Rydell SEAT Toledo Cupra + 8.018
6. Alessandro Zanardi BMW 320i + 9.513
7. Gabriele Tarquini Alfa Romeo 156 + 14.495
8. Augusto Farfus Jr. Alfa Romeo 156 + 19.711
9. Dirk Muller BMW 320i + 20.198
10. Alain Menu Chevrolet Lacetti + 22.805
11. Carl Rosenblad BMW 320i + 24.626
12. Giuseppe Ciro BMW 320i + 28.694
13. Marc Hennerici BMW 320i + 32.866
14. Stefano D'aste BMW 320i + 33.848
15. Adriano De Micheli Honda Accord Euro R + 34.112
16. Robert Huff Chevrolet Lacetti + 34.470
17. Jordi Gene SEAT Leon + 34.584
Driver Make On Lap
Erkut Kizilirmak SEAT Toledo Cupra 6
Nicola Larini Chevrolet Lacetti 6
Tom Coronel SEAT Toledo Cupra 5
Stephane Ortelli SEAT Toledo Cupra 5
Peter Terting SEAT Toledo Cupra 5
Jorg Muller BMW 320i 4
Michael Funke Ford Focus 2
Thomas Klenke Ford Focus 1
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