Number of minutes to set the grid: 90. Number of cars fighting it out: 72. Chances of finding a clear piece of track to set your lap: 0.
Qualifying will be followed by two hours of night practice to round the day off. All drivers must make it out on track for at least a lap so their car can take up its qualifying slot, so the pressure will be on.
The all-Australian entry from Mal Rose Racing is a big Aussie V8 Holden Commodore. It's a shame their sponsor didn't seem to have any product on sale at the track.
Getting the exit right out of the last corner is essential for a good lap time: the last corner provides a slingshot down to the startline, but the entry is tricky and the exit is treacherously slippery from cars going off line.
The faster cars suffer from being held up by the slower classes; they in turn are slowed by having to go offline to avoid being hit. Everyone is aggrieved, everyone thinks they're in the right. As the clock ticks down cars become visibly more aggressive.
Getting a clear lap is the goal: teams monitor the cars on track to try and find some space. Sometimes it works: nail the throttle and aim for the timing line.
The cars are tight in each class: the Duel Racing Renault Clio manages third, just half a second back from A2 class pole.
NASCAR, Italian style?The AF Corse Ferrari 430 in class SP2 has a star line-up of Michael Waltrip, Australian NASCAR convert, alongside Aussie V8 champion Marcos Ambrose. The race will be fought out by the 25-odd cars in the SP2, A5 and A6 classes – all effectively race-prepped GT cars.
French team Imsa MATMUT have brought along two essentially GT2 Porsche 997 RSRs in class A6. Far faster than what is supposed to be the top class, GT3, the cars are slowed mainly by fuel strategy: smaller tanks mean a refill will be required every 50 minutes or so, whereas the Cup Porsches should be able to eke out almost two hours to a tank. The race is likely to ebb and flow between these cars.
The Mustang continues to rumble around setting reasonable times, but ends up seventh in the SP2 class on a 2:08.945, six seconds off overall pole.
The pair of Petronas BMW Z4 M-Coupés are backed up by a third Z4 in the A5 class. All three qualify in the 10 and will be looking to bring the fight to the RSRs.
Seven tenths of a second covers the three Z4s. #41 gets second.
The all-Spanish line-up in the SUNRED SEAT Leon Super Copa qualifes a few seconds back from the A3T class pole, taken by their sister car with a mainly-professional line-up. But the Leons look great on track with their flared arches, big diffuses and heavily toed-out stance.
The sun begins to set as qualifying draws to a close, making visibility that much more tough. It's last chance to set a time.
The Dutch Donkervoort entry is based on the classic Lotus Seven design. They've been racing in GT4 this year, using 1.8L Audi turbo engines. They set a 2:15.672, which is in the ballpark for their class.
The Ascari KZ1-R GT3 is another specialist GT car expected to be right up front, along with the single Mosler MT900 entry. The Ascari ends up fifth on the grid; the Mosler second – but problems hit the car and it ends up starting from the pit lane.
It's no surprise the pro line-up in the Imsa RSR takes an easy pole: almost a second in front of the Mosler with a 2:02.701. Out on track it's so much faster than anything else in braking zones, and it simply flies down the straights. It's fantastic to watch, but there's obviously some discontent in the paddock about the team's presence.
The end of qualifying doesn't mean the end of the day. Mechanics swarm over the cars yet again as they prep them for the night session.
Racing takes on a completely different feeling at night. Sounds are amplified, colours saturated and speeding cars just look even faster.
The pitlane is ablaze with light and sound. It's massively disorientating. During the day it's difficult enough to be in the pitlane but at night everything is alive and dangerous. Cars fire in and out of their pit garages, and with the low driving positions it's impossible for the drivers to take in everything. Often rival team members or photographers are saved at the last minute by a quick push from a mechanic.
All the cars' extra light packages are unbuttoned, flooding the pitlane with white and yellow beams.
To help identify cars out on the track, teams tactically add fluro neon lights on the pitlane side of the cars or on the nose.
Number panels are made of reflective material, again to help eyeball the car.
Just as a car pulls out of the garage in front of you, another car is bearing down from behind.
Peeking out of the startline fence, the sense of speed of the cars on the straight is overwhelming. Leaning out you're first blinded by the headlight glare, then flattened by the wind from the passing car and finally deafened by the engine noise.
The pair of Nicholas Mee Racing Aston Martins have differing fortunes. The #125 car qualifies in 45th overall, six seconds off its sister car which is on class pole.
But it's also on the back of a recovery truck by the end of the session. More work for the mechanics.
Crossing back to the garages, watch out for cars taking to the track.
With the overload of light and sound it all gets a bit surreal.
Until finally everything really does become a blur. Time to back up to the garages.
The work continues in the pitlane as the teams rotate their drivers.
Tomorrow, 24 hours of racing starts, half of it in darkness. It's going to be a long night…