Scott Dixon led his teammate Dario Franchitti in a Ganassi one-two in the first of Saturday's IndyCar practice sessions at Motegi.
Dixon left it late, setting a 1m38.7710s with one of the final laps of the morning and beating Franchitti by a relatively comfortable 0.3976sec in a session where the entire 26-car field was covered by 1.6sec.
Franchitti had been in front since deposing title rival Will Power (Penske) in the early stages. Power had jumped to the top with a 1m39.4462s on his very first flying lap, but he did not improve on that until the final minutes. He ended up third, just ahead of teammate Ryan Briscoe.
Returnee Hideki Mutoh gave the home crowd some excitement by leading the way in his AFS/Sam Schmidt car in the opening minutes. His 1m39.4932s held up well as the session progressed, and he was still fifth at the checkered flag.
Mutoh's compatriot Takuma Sato (KV) did not fare so well, and was slowest of all after a minor off-track moment on his last run. Similar small mistakes saw Briscoe, Franchitti, Helio Castroneves, Joao Paulo de Oliveira, Alex Tagliani and James Jakes also exploring the run-off areas at various points.
Sebastien Bourdais flew for Dale Coyne and claimed sixth with a late surge. Oriol Servia (Newman/Haas) also improved on his final lap to put himself in seventh.
Graham Rahal (Ganassi), Andretti Autosport's fastest driver Mike Conway, and leading KV man EJ Viso completed the top 10, while 11th was a very respectable result for Rahal's teammate Charlie Kimball.
Pos Driver Team Time Gap
1. Scott Dixon Ganassi 1m38.7710s
2. Dario Franchitti Ganassi 1m39.1686s + 0.3976s
3. Will Power Penske 1m39.3090s + 0.5380s
4. Ryan Briscoe Penske 1m39.3928s + 0.6218s
5. Hideki Mutoh AFS/Sam Schmidt 1m39.4932s + 0.7222s
6. Sebastien Bourdais Dale Coyne 1m39.5376s + 0.7666s
7. Oriol Servia Newman/Haas 1m39.5611s + 0.7901s
8. Graham Rahal Ganassi 1m39.5636s + 0.7926s
9. Mike Conway Andretti 1m39.5787s + 0.8077s
10. EJ Viso KV 1m39.6065s + 0.8355s
11. Charlie Kimball Ganassi 1m39.7329s + 0.9619s
12. James Hinchcliffe Newman/Haas 1m39.8359s + 1.0649s
13. Vitor Meira Foyt 1m39.8374s + 1.0664s
14. Giorgio Pantano Dreyer & Reinbold 1m39.8978s + 1.1268s
15. Joao Paulo de Oliveira Conquest 1m39.9246s + 1.1536s
16. JR Hildebrand Panther 1m39.9421s + 1.1711s
17. Ryan Hunter-Reay Andretti 1m39.9843s + 1.2133s
18. Helio Castroneves Penske 1m39.9860s + 1.2150s
19. Simona de Silvestro HVM 1m40.0046s + 1.2336s
20. Alex Tagliani Sam Schmidt 1m40.0167s + 1.2457s
21. James Jakes Dale Coyne 1m40.0513s + 1.2803s
22. Marco Andretti Andretti 1m40.0744s + 1.3034s
23. Ana Beatriz Dreyer & Reinbold 1m40.1991s + 1.4281s
24. Tony Kanaan KV 1m40.2148s + 1.4438s
25. Danica Patrick Andretti 1m40.3514s + 1.5804s
26. Takuma Sato KV 1m40.4353s + 1.6643s