Points leader Jose Maria Lopez took victory in the opening World Touring Car Championship race at Motegi ahead of polesitter Norbert Michelisz
Michelisz initially made a good getaway at the start and squeezed Lopez's Citroen out from challenging for the lead, but he was powerless to prevent the Citroen passing his Zengo Honda into the first corner.
Lopez never looked back after that and drove to the flag without further challenge from Michelisz.
Gabriele Tarquini bounced back from qualifying disappointment to take the final podium place after jumping from sixth on the grid to third early on.
Behind the Honda Civics of Michelisz and Tarquini was a three-way Citroen duel after Sebastien Loeb fell down the order having made himself vulnerable at the opening corners.
Ma Qing Hua was one of the first to take advantage and swept past Loeb, but neither could hold the fast moving Yvan Muller, who came through to fourth.
Muller's weekend-long battle with understeer continued and he spent the race trying to fend off his team-mates.
Ma saw a chance late on to dive back through the inside for fourth while Loeb, who had the pace, was unable to find a way past and settled for sixth behind his French compatriot.
Loeb wasn't the only driver to slide down the order early on, with Mehdi Bennani's start leaving him to a lonely drive on his way to seventh.
The final places inside the top 10 went down to the wire as Rob Huff, Hugo Valente and Tiago Monteiro battled.
Monteiro had started at the back due to an engine change penalty and moved up the order with ease until he reached Huff's Lada.
The Portuguese driver repeatedly came close to making a pass stick, but could never usurp Huff from ninth.
Their place-swapping battle eventually relieved pressure on Valente, who went on to take eighth.
The race was largely incident free, but Turn 5 proved to be calamitous for ROAL Motorsport duo Tom Chilton and Tom Coronel.
The two Chevrolets caught the kerbs into the corner, before going across the gravel into the barriers on successive laps.
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