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Jose Maria Lopez is well placed to wrap up the 2014 World Touring Car Championship title in the first race of the weekend at Suzuka after powering to a last gasp pole position.

The Argentinian, who can wrap up the title with a second place finish in either of the day's two races around the Japanese circuit, made the most of a fast final sector to inch ahead of team-mates Yvan Muller and Sebastien Loeb in one of the closest-fought qualifying sessions of the year.

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With just over a tenth covering the top three around the full length circuit - being used for the first time this year -, the Citroen trio were in turn almost a second up on the competition, led by the Chevrolets of Tom Chilton and Hugo Valente.

Looking for a strong performance on home soil, Honda's challenge was led by Nortbert Michelisz in sixth position, but there was disappointment for the factory Castrol Civics of Gabriele Tarquini and Tiago Monteiro, down in tenth and 11th, even if the former will start race two from pole position as a result.