Tom Coronel took a popular victory in the second World Touring Car Championship race of the weekend at Okayama with the battle for the drivers' title now set to be decided on the streets of Macau next month.
At the wheel of his petrol-powered SEAT Leon, Coronel held off the challenge of Augusto Farfus during the closing stages of the race to snare the win, while Sergio Hernandez completed the podium finish and secured Independent honours for the Proteam Motorsport squad.
With the circuit drying out following the earlier rain, tyre choice was key ahead of the race with some drivers going for wet rubber and some electing to gamble that the track was dry enough for slicks. Coronel however went a different way, putting slick tyres on the front of his SUNRED entered Leon TFSi and putting wets on the rear.
When the lights went out to start the race, Coronel made the best start from pole while second placed Yvan Muller got bogged down somewhat off the line and dropped back down the order. However, behind Coronel and Muller, Tiago Monteiro had got away well from the second row of the grid and swept into the lead at turn one ahead of Coronel, Augusto Farfus and Stefano D'Aste.
By the end of the lap however, the diesel-powered Leons, on wet tyres, had fought back with Muller up to third ahead of Farfus and Rickard Rydell behind the BMW in fifth.
On lap two, Alex Zanardi went off heavily into the wall after contact from the BMW of Matthew Marsh back in the pack but was able to climb from his damaged car and the race continued under local yellows, while someone noticeable in their absence from the front of the field was Gabriele Tarquini – who found himself battling with the LADAs of Kirill Ladygin and Jaap van Lagen. Tarquini would ultimately retire from the race mid-way through.
Monteiro continued to lead from Coronel, Muller and Rydell, but the diesel cars were already looking for wet tarmac to keep their tyres cool, while cars behind were clearly lapping quicker.
Having got ahead of Farfus into fifth on lap two, D'Aste made a move for fourth on Rydell but then outbraked himself into the hairpin and slipped back to tenth.
Coronel was all over the rear of Monteiro and on lap five he found a way past the Portuguese racer and then set about building a lead. Further back, Farfus had got ahead of Rydell into fourth and was now chasing down Yvan Muller for third. D'Aste had also got back into the top eight ahead of Franz Engstler and Nicola Larini and was running on the rear of Proteam team-mate Hernandez.