Toyota's Timo Glock stole some limelight from championship leader Lewis Hamilton on Friday with the quickest time in free practice at the Japanese Grand Prix.
Hamilton, who takes a seven-point lead over rival Felipe Massa into the weekend with three races left, was third fastest overall for McLaren, behind Renault's Fernando Alonso.
Massa was fourth on the timesheets with Ferrari team mate Kimi Raikkonen fifth over the picturesque 4.563km Fuji Speedway circuit.
"There were no particular problems today," Hamilton, winner in Japan last year, told reporters. "The car is very competitive here. We showed we're in a good position to push this weekend.
"We were immediately on the pace and found a good balance straight away."
Glock delighted Toyota's flag-waving fans at the Japanese manufacturer's home circuit, roaring to a best lap of one minute 18.383 seconds in the afternoon session.
"We were very consistent and had a really productive day," said the German. "It's great for the team to be top of the list after the second practice on Friday."
Two-times world champion Alonso, the surprise winner in Singapore two weeks ago, clocked 1:18.426, and Hamilton, quickest in the morning sunshine, timed 1:18.463 as the skies darkened.
Massa, who finished 13th and out of the points in Singapore following a bungled pitstop, said he was satisfied after posting a best time of 1:18.491.
"The times are very close," said the Brazilian. "Maybe I could have been a bit further up the order in the afternoon if I had not encountered traffic on my last run on the soft tyres."
Massa needs Raikkonen, whose run of four races without a point has wrecked his hopes of winning a second straight Formula One world title, to raise his game in Japan.
The Finn is 27 points adrift of Hamilton and only mathematically still alive in the drivers' championship.
Alonso, yet to decide if he will stay with Renault in 2009, again showed good speed and was fifth fastest in the morning before dazzling in the second session.
Hamilton, third in Singapore, won a rain-soaked Fuji race last year only to allow Raikkonen to claw back a 17-point deficit in the final two races in China and Brazil and win by a single point.
BMW-Sauber's Robert Kubica, 20 points behind Hamilton and needing a bizarre turn of events to win the title, was 11th fastest.
Hamilton can become Formula One's youngest world champion at 23, while Massa needs a slice of luck to become the first Brazilian to take the title since the late Ayrton Senna in 1991.
Rain is threatened for Saturday's qualifying, although dry conditions are forecast for race day.