Sergio Hernandez will head to Macau as the firm favourite to secure the World Touring Car Championship Independents' Trophy after a stunning performance in the penultimate race weekend of the year.
The former single-seater racer qualified in twelfth place at Okayama but stormed into the points positions at the rolling start in race one.
Unfortunately for the Spaniard, he slipped back down the order during the race and took the flag back in the same position he had started as the second placed Independent behind Proteam team-mate Stefano D'Aste.
However, in race two, Hernandez produced a storming drive through to third place overall and with D'Aste crashing out four laps from the end, Hernandez will take a 29 point lead to Macau – with 40 available from the final two races of the year thanks to the double points rule.
“I had a bit of good luck today with Stefano having problems, especially in the second race. The team has done a great job this season and we have been so close to a podium. It is great to do it here but I want to repeat it in Macau!”
Hernandez saw his title hopes improve after the second race when news filtered through that D'Aste will take a five place grid penalty in the season finale after an incident in race two while fighting with Tiago Monteiro for third.
Contact between the two saw D'Aste lose a wheel and forced Monteiro off across the gravel at the hairpin at the end of the back straight, with the incident securing Hernandez's place on the podium.
“There were cars everywhere in the second race and it was impossible to take my proper lines,” D'Aste admitted. “I had a good fight with my team-mate but it did not turn out as well as the first.”