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Here’s What It’s Like to Spend the Day With the McLaren F1

About six weeks ago, I spent the day with Jay Leno and his McLaren F1. It was quite an event, and you’re probably wondering how it came about and what happened during the day. So here’s how it went down.

Back in December or January, I got a message from Jay’s producer, David. David had brought me to Southern California a couple of years ago in order to film a segment for an episode of Jay’s CNBC show, “Jay Leno’s Garage,” and he was messaging me to ask for Tyler Hoover’s contact information (so Tyler could be on a segment) — and to see if I had any ideas for content that I might want to be a part of. Remembering Jay had a McLaren F1, I replied: Yeah, I have an idea! And so, the F1 video was born.

A few weeks later, Jay himself called me and told me he’d be happy to have me film the quirks and features of the F1 — but I couldn’t drive it, due to its value. I have good production insurance that would probably cover me (with a substantial deductible or insurance payment), but truthfully I didn’t really want to drive the car anyway. I know it sounds sacrilegious, but the F1 is valued around $20 million — and the pressure I imagine you’d feel when driving something like that is so great that you’d not even slightly enjoy it, not even for a moment. I asked Jay if he’d take me out in it, and he said he’d be happy to — and he told me to get back with his producer and pick a date. Then, while we were still on the phone, he asked me “Have you driven anything interesting lately?” We then discussed the Toyota Century for a few minutes.

When the date came, I arrived at Jay’s garage and he took me inside, showing me the cars I had seen briefly a couple of years earlier when I filmed my segment with him. We got to the F1, he started it up and he drove it into the center of his collection so I could start my filming. Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe my feelings throughout this morning — as I was setting up my gear, I was so anxious. I’m with Jay Leno! In Jay Leno’s garage! And I’m filming a McLaren F1! And I had better freaking not get anything wrong! This is such a moment.

In fact, it was such a moment that I remained intently focused the entire day, paying little mind to the fact that I was standing in a room full of gorgeous vintage Bugatti models. I didn’t really care. I wanted to get the F1 right, to fully document all of its myriad quirks and features, and to make a great video for my viewers. The car is so intimidating that I messed up my lines way more than usual and had to re-record things far more than I typically do — standing there in Jay Leno’s garage filming a McLaren F1, it’s hard to feel casual like you’re standing next to a Kia Telluride, even though they’re both “just cars.”

One major source of excitement for me was just pawing around all of the little buttons and switches in the F1, largely because I had never really done so before — and nobody else, really has either. There’s very little content online about the specifics of the F1, beyond general stuff calling it the greatest car ever made, and some driving experience videos. Seeing the buttons, the switches, the latches — this was a whole new experience, and I hope you’ll feel the same way.

Next, Jay took me out in the F1, and I’ve explained that trip in greater detail in my post about the F1 and its driving (or, rather, riding) experience — but the general gist is that it felt pretty special from the passenger seat. I chose to sit on the “passenger side,” while Jay’s producer sat on the driver’s side getting some in-car shots — and yes, it was very odd for me to be riding three-abreast in a supercar. On the drive, most people failed to notice the F1, and a few people noticed “Jay Leno driving one of his cars” — with no knowledge that the car they’re next to is one of the all-time greatest ever. A few people clearly recognized the car and its amazingness, and those were the ones who really freaked out.

Back at Jay’s garage, he parked the car in its designated space and set it back on its battery tender — a process that involved some very careful maneuvering, considering the car’s value and rarity, and a general desire not to have to figure out how to do bodywork on a McLaren F1. We talked a bit, he filmed the final line of my “DougScore” video on the car, and that was that: six hours with the F1, and all the anxiety now in the past. I hope you enjoy the video as much as I enjoyed making it.

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  1. I’m usually pretty much over the supercar test videos across the board…Ferrari this, Lambo that…blah, blah, blah.  Give me a well-sorted X 1/9, or maybe a well-preserved 944, something the 99% if us could reasonably hope to achieve at some point in our lives.  But I have to say, this review of the F1 was special, indeed.  The excitement and joy was noticeable and real.  This one should earn all the likes and views it gets.  Well done.

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Doug Demuro
Doug Demuro
Doug DeMuro writes articles and makes videos, mainly about cars. Doug was born in Denver, Colorado, and received an economics degree from Emory University in Atlanta. After graduation, Doug spent three years working for Porsche Cars North America. Eventually, he quit his job to become a writer, largely because it meant that he no longer had to wear pants. Doug’s work has been featured in a... Read More about Doug Demuro

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