Former Manchester United goalkeeper prepares for Le Mans 24 Hours

Barthez Car

While his fellow countrymen face Honduras on Sunday afternoon, former France goalkeeper Fabien Barthez will be taking on a very different challenge.

And, given the French squad's superiority over the Hondurans, it is Barthez who is facing the stiffer test - because the 42-year-old will be making his first start at the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Acknowledged as France's greatest goalkeeper, Barthez represented his country on 87 occasions, lifting the World Cup in 1998 and narrowly missing out on a second title in 2006. His club career was also a success - though often colourful - with a Champions League win at Marseille in 1993 and two Premier League titles with Manchester United.

But since leaving the game in 2007, Barthez has embarked on a career in motor racing. And that will culminate at Le Mans on Saturday when he begins his first attempt at the iconic 24-hour race.

Driving a Ferrari 458, Barthez will share the car with Soheil Ayari and Anthony Pons. The trio will compete in the GTE-AM class, which mixes semi-pros with at least one professional driver. In Barthez's case, both he and Pons are 'amateurs', with Ayari the designated pro.

They will start 51st of the 55 cars taking part and 14th in their 18-car class. However given the nature of the 24 Hours starting position is largely irrelevant, with fatigue to both man and machine certain to thoroughly shake up the order.

Barthez has already enjoyed success since switching his attention to motor racing, clinching last year's French GT championship. The World Cup-winner is not the only 'celebrity' in this year's Le Mans field, with French singer David Hallyday and the American actor Patrick Dempsey also competing.

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