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Le Mans 24 Hours of Le Mans

Football icon Zidane named Le Mans 24 Hours starter

Football legend Zinedine Zidane will drop the flag at the start of the Le Mans 24 Hours World Endurance Championship round next month.

Esteban Ocon, Alpine meet Zinédine Zidane

Zidane, a World Cup victor with France who also won three UEFA Champions League titles as a manager with Real Madrid, has been named as the official starter for the double-points WEC round by race organiser the Automobile Club de l’Ouest. 

That means he will wave off the 62-car field for the French enduro at the 16:00 start time on 15 June. 

Zidane said: “The Le Mans 24 Hours is beyond compare: it’s an iconic race for anyone who loves motorsport, for people all around the world, and a source of immense pride for France. 

“My head is full of images of the race, the legendary drivers, the amazing stories, although these are images from TV or movie scenes! 

“To actually be there will be a first for me and, needless to say, I’m extremely honoured to take on the role of starter.”

Sprint winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, Zinedine Zidane, Football manager, in Parc Ferme

Sprint winner Max Verstappen, Red Bull Racing, Charles Leclerc, Scuderia Ferrari, Sergio Perez, Red Bull Racing, Zinedine Zidane, Football manager, in Parc Ferme

Photo by: Mark Sutton / Motorsport Images

ACO president Pierre Fillon suggested that Le Mans could not have hoped for a “more prestigious starter” for the 92nd running of the event.

“Le Mans is a world-renowned event that, throughout its history, has welcomed some great names from many different horizons,” he said.

“Zinedine Zidane is an icon, a sportsman whose talent has inspired generations of fans.”

Zidane follows NBA basketball legend LeBron James in taking the honorary starter’s role at Le Mans.

Previous big names from the world of sport to fill the position include 14-time French Open tennis champion Rafael Nadal in 2018, the year that fellow Spaniard Fernando Alonso made his Le Mans debut, and triple Olympic skiing gold medallist Jean-Claude Killy in 2010.

One of Zidane’s team-mates in the 1998 World Cup-winning French national football team has competed in the 24 Hours at Le Mans? 

Goalkeeper Fabien Barthez took part in the French enduro three times between 2014 and 2017.

He first raced in a Ferrari 458 Italian GT2 run by the Auto Sport Promotion team and then twice entered the race aboard an LMP2 Ligier-Nissan JSP2 run under the Barthez-Panis Competition banner, in 2016 and 2017.

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