Honda's Gabriele Tarquini set the fastest time during the 30-minute test session of the weekend in Shanghai, leading Zengo Motorsport Honda privateer Norbert Michelisz.
While Honda ended up 1-2, the reigning champion Jose Maria Lopez finished third for Citroen.
The Japanese manufacturer led the session, despite their extra 40kg weight penalty which they acquired after a strong outing in Japan two weeks ago.
Tarquini produced his best lap in the final seconds of the run, taking the spot away from Michelisz, after the 31-year-old Hungarian had knocked rival independent driver Mehdi Bennani off the top of the timesheets.
Bennani had himself deposed factory Citroen driver, and his team boss, Sebastien Loeb from P1 just after halfway through the session.
With just over a minute remaining, Nicky Catsburg put his Lada Vesta up to second, with Citroen’s Yvan Muller then taking P2 from the Dutch driver.
However, with Tarquini and Lopez improving, Catsburg and Muller to fourth and fifth in the final order.
Bennani finished the session sixth with ROAL Motorsport's Tom Chilton the best placed of the Chevrolet RML Cruze drivers in seventh.
Lada's Rob Huff was eighth quickest, while local driver Ma Qing Hua was ninth in his Citroen C-Elysee, with Loeb completing the top ten, just six-tenths off the overall pace.
Free Practice 1 takes place at 9:10 CST on Saturday.
Neil Hudson / TouringCarTimes