Spanish tennis star Rafael Nadal has been named the starter for the 86th running of the Le Mans 24 Hours next month, and will send off the field of 60 cars on Saturday at 3 p.m. on June 16.
Nadal will head to Le Mans after competing in the French Open at Roland Garros in Paris earlier in the month, a Grand Slam tournament which he has won 10 times, most recently just last year.
“France has long been in the spotlight in the sporting world in June, with the French Open and the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” Nadal said. “I know the French Open very well and I’m always proud to be there. It’s the most important tournament of my career. This year I will have the honor of giving the start of the 2018 24 Hours of Le Mans, one of the world’s greatest motor races.
“I look forward to getting to know more about this spectacular sport, the drivers and everyone involved. We have in common a competitive spirit and a habit of seeking new challenges. That’s why I’m delighted to have this opportunity and I can assure you that when I wave that flag to start the race, it will be with the greatest pride and exhilaration.”
As the Le Mans 24 Hours official starter, Nadal is proceeded by a huge number of stars, including Giovanni Agnelli, Alain Delon, Jacky Ickx, Raymond Poulidor, Albert de Monaco, Jean-Martin Folz, Luca di Montezemolo, Jean Todt, Luc Besson, Don Panoz, Bill Ford, Brad Pitt, and Chase Carey.
“Because he is outstanding in his discipline, because he is talented, fair and combative and has followed an intelligent career path, Rafael Nadal upholds the values of endurance racing,” added Pierre Fillon, president of the Automobile Club de l’Ouest.
“For those reasons Nadal is an ideal race starter and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest (ACO) and the FIA World Endurance Championship are delighted to welcome such a champion to Le Mans. His aura will only add to the international reputation of the race.”