Yvan Muller clinched a record fourth World Touring Car crown in the opening race at Suzuka, finishing third as Norbert Michelisz earned Honda a commanding home win
Much of the action came on the opening lap, with Muller passing RML Chevrolet team-mate Tom Chilton around the outside of Turns 1 and 2, but in turn falling victim to the fast-starting Honda of Tiago Monteiro.
The Portuguese driver ran wide heading into the final corner however, dropping down to eighth and establishing a top four of Michelisz, Alex MacDowall, Muller and Chilton that remained in formation until the finish.
Muller's podium was easily enough to secure an insurmountable points lead, and with it a third title with Chevrolet before he departs for Citroen next year.
The Frenchman almost sealed second after staging a late assault on MacDowall, but the Briton's defence held up, allowing him to secure a career-best second place by just three hundredths of a second.
Neither man could touch Zengo driver Michelisz, who preserved his advantage from pole and rapidly disappeared out front, eventually winning by nearly five seconds.
The orderly top four was in stark contrast to wild battles down the field, in which the two works Hondas were the main losers.
Gabriele Tarquini was hit by technical issues when running fifth, while Monteiro came out worst after a long side-by-side battle with Pepe Oriola ended with his Honda being squeezed into a tyre stack on the apex of Turn 7.
Oriola was handed a drive-through penalty for the scrap, with Monteiro forced to retire.
Their fight allowed James Nash to claim a relatively lonely fifth and also helped James Thompson slip into sixth, equalling Lada's best result of the season.
The Briton had to work hard to fend off 2012 champion Rob Huff, Tom Coronel, Marc Basseng and Fernando Monje, all of whom had previously been bottled up behind the Monteiro/Oriola duel.
Takuya Izawa finished as the second Honda, and first of the series' nine newcomers, in 12th, fractions behind race two polesitter Mehdi Bennani.
Results - 26 laps:Pos Driver Team/Car Time/Gap 1. Norbert Michelisz Zengo Honda 23m58.613s 2. Alex MacDowall Bamboo Chevrolet +4.832s 3. Yvan Muller RML Chevrolet +5.149s 4. Tom Chilton RML Chevrolet +5.422s 5. James Nash Bamboo Chevrolet +14.377s 6. James Thompson Lada +25.611s 7. Rob Huff Munnich SEAT +25.786s 8. Tom Coronel ROAL BMW +25.940s 9. Marc Basseng Munnich SEAT +26.247s 10. Fernando Monje Campos SEAT +26.534s 11. Mehdi Bennani Proteam BMW +26.747s 12. Takuya Izawa Honda +27.062s 13. Darryl O'Young ROAL BMW +28.805s 14. Charles Ng Engstler BMW +34.138s 15. Mikhail Kozlovskiy Lada +36.211s 16. Rene Munnich Munnich SEAT +36.280s 17. Yukinori Taniguchi Wiechers BMW +36.985s 18. Hiroki Yoshimoto Nika Chevrolet +44.883s 19. Masaki Kano Engstler BMW +48.667s 20. Jeronimo Badaraco Son Veng Chevrolet +52.433s 21. Filipe de Souza China Dragon Chevrolet +1 lap 22. Kin Veng Ng China Dragon Chevrolet +1 lap 23. Ka Lok Mak RPM BMW +1 lap 24. Henry Ho Engstler BMW +2 laps Retirements: Pepe Oriola Tuenti Chevrolet 21 laps Tom Boardman Special Tuning SEAT 21 laps Gabriele Tarquini Honda 21 laps Tiago Monteiro Honda 19 laps Stefano D'Aste PB BMW 19 laps
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