Jay Leno Pilots the Ultra-rare Jaguar XJR-15

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The car-loving comedian straps on a headset and takes flight in the V12-powered race car for the road.

There’s a reason why we said Jay Leno pilots the Jaguar XJR-15 you’ll see in the video above.

Sure, a car with a 6.0-liter V12 and rear-wheel drive needs to be controlled by skilled hands while it zooms through the air, even if it is just the air above a road. And it’s true that since Jaguar Sport (a Jaguar subsidiary formed by the cooperation of Jaguar and Tom Walkinshaw Racing) only made 53 XJR-15s, one of them probably costs as much as a plane.

Perhaps we used the word “pilot” because the cockpit of the XJR-15 is cramped even for two people and brings the interior of a small aircraft to mind. Maybe it’s because the car’s sleek, curvaceous lines make it look as if it can slip through the air like a fighter jet. The XJR-15 is made out of carbon fiber, much like certain aircraft. Or maybe we chose the word “pilot” because the giant 12-cylinder engine drinks gas (it only gets an estimated 9-10 mpg, according to its owner, Dr. Jasbir Dhillon), like an airplane.


ALSO SEE: The Jaguar XJR-15 is the Most Underrated Supercar of the ’90s


jaguarforums.com Jay Leno's Garage Jaguar XJR-15

You’ll know why once Leno gets behind the controls of the XJR-15. In case you haven’t done that yet, we’ll tell you. We said Jay Leno pilots the XJR-15 because it’s so damn loud! It’s like the inside of a small plane. And that’s with a regular five-speed gearbox, not the available straight-cut gears. We actually feel bad for Leno’s audio team. Even with all of their wizardry and Leno and Dhillon using their headsets, it’s hard to hear them over the constant engine and outside noise that fills the small cabin.

That rawness fits the character of the XJR-15, which is not that far removed from a race car. In fact, it’s a production car cousin to the 1988 Le Mans-winning Jaguar XJR-9. It’s an analog machine; Leno praises the clutch, but admits he has to muscle the car to get it to do what he wants. Trust us. You might not be able to hear him when he says it, but the words come out of his mouth. In a scream, of course.

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Derek Shiekhi's father raised him on cars. As a boy, Derek accompanied his dad as he bought classics such as post-WWII GM trucks and early Ford Mustang convertibles.

After loving cars for years and getting a bachelor's degree in Business Management, Derek decided to get an associate degree in journalism. His networking put him in contact with the editor of the Austin-American Statesman newspaper, who hired him to write freelance about automotive culture and events in Austin, Texas in 2013. One particular story led to him getting a certificate for learning the foundations of road racing.

While watching TV with his parents one fateful evening, he saw a commercial that changed his life. In it, Jeep touted the Wrangler as the Texas Auto Writers Association's "SUV of Texas." Derek knew he had to join the organization if he was going to advance as an automotive writer. He joined the Texas Auto Writers Association (TAWA) in 2014 and was fortunate to meet several nice people who connected him to the representatives of several automakers and the people who could give him access to press vehicles (the first one he ever got the keys to was a Lexus LX 570). He's now a regular at TAWA's two main events: the Texas Auto Roundup in the spring and the Texas Truck Rodeo in the fall.

Over the past several years, Derek has learned how to drive off-road in various four-wheel-drive SUVs (he even camped out for two nights in a Land Rover), and driven around various tracks in hot hatches, muscle cars, and exotics. Several of his pieces, including his article about the 2015 Ford F-150 being crowned TAWA's 2014 "Truck of Texas" and his review of the Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, have won awards in TAWA's annual Excellence in Craft Competition. Last year, his JK Forum profile of Wagonmaster, a business that restores Jeep Wagoneers, won prizes in TAWA’s signature writing contest and its pickup- and SUV-focused Texas Truck Invitational.

In addition to writing for a variety of Internet Brands sites, including JK Forum, H-D Forums, The Mustang Source, Mustang Forums, LS1Tech, HondaTech, Jaguar Forums, YotaTech, and Ford Truck Enthusiasts. Derek also started There Will Be Cars on Instagram, Facebook, and YouTube.

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