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Tennis star Rafael Nadal named as starter of 2018 Le Mans 24 Hours

Rafael Nadal Oscar Barrosa

Tennis legend Rafael Nadal has been announced as race starter for this year's Le Mans 24 Hours.

Nadal, who won his 10th French Open title last year and also has Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open championships to his name, will wave the flag at the start of the World Endurance Championship race on June 16.

The role was fulfilled by Formula 1 boss Chase Carey last year, and in recent years the likes of actor Brad Pitt, NASCAR chairman Jim France, Ford executive chairman Bill Ford and Fernando Alonso - who will contest the 24 Hours for the first time this year with Toyota - have all started the race.

"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.

"This year I will have the honour 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."

Pierre Fillon, the President of Le Mans organiser the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, added: "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.

"For those reasons Nadal is an ideal race starter and the ACO and the 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."

The ACO last week announced six-time Le Mans 24 Hours winner Jacky Ickx as grand marshal for next month's event.

Ickx, whose victory count at Le Mans includes three successive victories between 1975 and '77, will lead the field around on its formation lap ahead of the start of the race.

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