Tennis legend Rafael Nadal has been named as the race starter for this year's running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, taking place at the Circuit de la Sarthe on June 16-17.

Nadal, 31, is a 16-time grand slam winner and current world number two in the men's tennis rankings, but will take time out of his busy schedule to appear at Le Mans for the start of the race, waving the flag as they cross the line to start the 24 hours of running.

"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. the longest-serving motorsport website in the world

"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, president of 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 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."

Besides Nadal, Le Mans legend Jacky Ickx will also be on hand to start proceedings as the grand marshal for the race, leading the parade lap.