Tennis superstar Rafael Nadal has been confirmed as race starter for next month’s 24 Hours of Le Mans.
The 16-time Grand Slam champion will wave the Tricolore at the start of the French endurance classic, which takes place on June 16-17.
Nadal is one of the most successful players in tennis history, with the second-highest number of Grand Slam tournament victories and a record 10 wins at the French Open.
The Spaniard will take the role of official starter that has previously been filled by the likes of Chase Carey, Brad Pitt and Fernando Alonso in recent years.
Last week, it was announced that the Grand Marshal for the FIA World Endurance Championship centerpiece will be six-time Le Mans winner Jacky Ickx.
Ickx will lead the 60-car field around its formation lap of the 8.5-mile Circuit de la Sarthe, before Nadal releases the grid for the start of the race.
“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,” said ACO president Pierre Fillon.
“For those reasons, Nadal is an ideal race starter and the Automobile Club de l’Ouest 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.”
Nadal, who is playing in this year’s French Open a week before Le Mans, said he is looking to “getting to know more about this spectacular sport.”
“France has long been in the spotlight in the sporting world in June, with the French Open and the 24 Hours of Le Mans,” said Nadal.
“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.
“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.”