Yvan Muller has strengthened his lead in the World Touring Car Championship standings with victory in the opening race of the weekend at Monza.
Having qualified at the front of the field, Muller led in the opening stages of the race before briefly losing the lead to team-mate Gabriele Tarquini, but reclaimed the place on the final lap to secure a win that allows him to extend his lead in the championship.
On the rolling start, the SEATs were able to hold position out front, but further back, contact from Felix Porteiro's BMW tipped James Thompson into a spin on the run to turn one. With the Honda Accord coming to rest in the middle of the track, a number of cars were forced to cut the corner while both Pierre-Yves Corthals and Rob Huff were tipped into half spins by Thompson's sideways Honda.
Muller led the way from Tarquini and Rickard Rydell, while Nicola Larini had jumped to fourth ahead of BMW pair Augusto Farfus and Andy Priaulx, with Jordi Gene having slipped backwards at the start.
The SEATs led the way through the early laps while further down the field, Huff was looking to work his way into the points and took ninth from Tom Coronel on the run to the parabolica on lap three. Ahead, Larini was trying to find a way ahead of Rydell but having tried to make a move at the first corner, he lost out to Augusto Farfus on the long run to the Variante della Roggia. Farfus wouldn't hold fourth for long however, as Larini reclaimed fourth through the Variante Ascari.
The following lap saw Tarquini take the lead into the Rettifilo while Priaulx pulled a similar move on Farfus for fifth, with the Brazilian then started to slow before he pulled off track and retired.
Tarquini held the lead until the ninth and final lap before Muller dived down the inside into turn one to reclaim the lead while Larini tagged Rydell as he tried to take third – with the SEAT forced off across the grass. Rydell's short-cut put him into the lead but he duly dropped back behind both Muller and Tarquini as SEAT took a 1-2-3, while Priaulx took fourth after Larini slowed and dropped down to sixth – with Tiago Monteiro also coming past. Behind Larini, Huff took seventh while Gene claimed eighth and pole position for race two.
Independent honours went the way of Corthals, ahead of Franz Engstler and Sergio Hernandez.