The Dubai 24 Hours had a proper 12 hours of darkness. At Le Mans, the mother of all endurance races, it's still light way into the evening – it does happen in June after all. But here in the Middle East it's a pretty even split. The start straight at the Dubai Autodrome is under powerful daylight-strength floodlights, but as soon as the cars run down the hill from turn one it's into darkness.
There's a fair amount of ambient light pollution from the nearby town, but for the drivers in racing seats mounted low-down and as much to the rear of the car as possible the night just means survival. It's one of those occasions where I'm much happier watching from behind a barrier.
With most cars running extra light packages during the night, the drivers are virtually blinded by cars coming up behind them. Educated guesswork, some luck and probably just closing your eyes and hoping seems to get most passes done.
Team Lap 57 are another of the increasing number of home-grown teams from the United Arab Emirates. They're the current UAE Touring Car champions, and run a Honda Civic Type R in the 24.
There were frequent 'Code 60s', which are called when there's an incident on the track. All cars must slow to 60kph and maintain that speed until the track goes green again: it's a way of stopping lead's that have been built up by hard work being wiped out by someone else's bad luck. But the worst crash by far was at around 11pm between the AF Corse Ferrari 430 and this Zengo Motorsport SEAT Leon. The Leon was completely destroyed and dragged off the track. The Ferrari got back to the pits but was too heavily damaged to continue.
The Clios continued to be entertaining through the night: though they continued their pinball battle with the GT cars. This is one of Team First's two cars: another UAE-based squad.
Back in the pits there was no respite, and there was still no chance of any for another 15 hours. Drivers continued to rotate, the outgoing driver always helping strap in the next guy. The German-run Tsunami Porsche team had three Ukrainian drivers alongside one German.
Following the change-over the driver literally staggered back into his garage. It's no surprise: driving at full pace in darkness with so many different speeds of car around you must be incredibly tiring. The area behind the pit garages was scattered with drivers awaiting their next stint, usually trying to get some rest.
The Belgian Mustang crew chief was obviously quite keen on conducting his mechanics; unfortunately not all of them learned the steps…
Because of the number of cars, most garages were doubled up for two teams. Larger garages could have six cars fighting for space. It made controlling the pit stops even more difficult. As expected, the full-time professional teams always seemed that much more on top of things, though they normally didn't have the same space constraints as the smaller squads.
Clutch problems hampered the Mal Rose Holden Commodore in the early evening; maybe from having to cope with the big V8. As the night wore on, the V8 began to sound more and more stressed; gear changes came with a harsh bang from the exhaust. Would it last the night?
Tyres were still being used up at a phenomenal rate, but the Dunlop team were apparently coping without any major problems.
Two big trucks with awnings covered the working area where rims were fitted with new rubber and then delivered to the customer teams.
The refuelling area was kept busy: this is a rare quiet moment.
The amount of smoke from burning brakes was even more obvious in the colder night air. As wheels were pulled off cars would be engulfed in a cloud of smoke.
My favourite Porsche neon nose… A somehow cheerful looking car?
The floodlights bathed the pitlane in a surreal glow.
A fireworks display was let loose at midnight: I hope the drivers had been warned it was going to happen, as it was right over the track!
Some people had no time to look up from their laptops – strategy was constantly evolving and tyres and fuel had to be managed.
As spares ran out drastic measures were called for. There was a road-going Renault Clio up on jacks in the paddock with its rear axle and suspension removed, and even an Aston Martin was apparently being raided for parts. The Japanese Team Rush were busy cannibalising this Carrera for parts to get their car back in the race. It eventually rejoined, minus most of its rear or top wing plane.
Regular teams used traditional framed signalling boards. Le Mans regulars Imsa went for the cinema-style glowing version instead. The team were P1 and P2 at 8pm.
And in one of Imsa's container out back was one of their resting drivers, drying off apparently…
With some lighting rigs on the grandstands the pit straight looked amazing.
It was time to drive round the outside of the track and take in the racing.
Speedhunters' video cameras are everywhere, recording HD goodness.
You can get right up close to the cars on the main straight: it's a riot of light and speed.
6am. The Speedhunters team have now been up for about 20 hours. And there's still another eight hours to go!
And the cars continue to pound round. Slightly dirtier. Often not sounding great. For some there's still the chance of victory, but for everyone there's the simple goal of finishing.