Jay Leno takes on COTA in McLaren 12C sports car (VIDEO)

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With one month to go before the United States Grand Prix, the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas started its countdown yesterday with the help of The Tonight Show host and automotive fanatic, Jay Leno.

Leno, who was visiting COTA to tape segments for his JayLenosGarage.com website, took on COTA’s 3.4-mile circuit in a McLaren 12C sports car, while McLaren F1 test driver Oliver Turvey drove the team’s 2011 Grand Prix challenger, the McLaren MP4-26.

Turvey was on hand to give Leno a tutorial on the two different types of McLaren machines and how their respective performances compare against each other.

Before Leno hit the track on Thursday, he talked with Austin NBC affiliate KXAN about COTA (see the video above), which has already garnered a tremendous reputation during its young history.

“I think this is the equal of anything in Europe or Japan,” Leno told KXAN’s Sally Hernandez. “I mean, it really is done properly – there’s all kinds of space, you can spread out and I think it really makes Austin a world-class [city].

“Not that it wasn’t a world-class city before, but the people from France, from Europe, from Germany will come here with some preconceived notion, and I think they’ll be quite surprised when they get here.”

COTA will host its second United States Grand Prix – the penultimate round of the 2013 Formula One World Championship – on Nov. 17. But before then, F1 gets back to action on Oct. 27 with the Airtel Indian Grand Prix on NBCSN.