Sabine Schmitz, the ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’ and former Top Gear presenter has died aged 51, after a long battle with cancer, her team Frikadelli Racing has confirmed.
Schmitz, born on 14 May 1969, was synonymous with the iconic Nürburgring circuit, where she made her name.
The German was affectionately known as the ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’ and she accumulated, by her estimate, over 30,000 laps of the infamous Nordschleife circuit.
She became the first woman to win the Nürburgring 24 Hours in 1996, ultimately securing two victories in the famous endurance race.
In 2015 she joined the grid for the World Touring Car Championship race on the Nordschleife circuit, racing a Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1 for Münnich Motorsport.
The following year she once again took to the wheel of a Chevrolet for the team, securing a tenth and 11th place finish just as she had done the previous year.
In 2017 she was diagnosed with cancer, and she has spent the past three years fighting the disease, which aggressively returned in 2020.
“Sabine Schmitz (14.5.1969 – 16.3.2021) passed away yesterday (Tuesday) after her brave fight against cancer,” said the team she co-founded with husband Klaus Abbelen, Frikadelli Racing.
“She was 51 years old. Klaus Abbelen and all relatives and friends are deeply saddened by the immeasurable loss.”
In 1998 Schmitz also became the first woman to win the VLN Endurance Championship on the Nordschleife.
Paying tribute to Schmitz, the Nürburgring, where she drove the ‘Ring Taxi’, posted on social media about her passing on Wednesday.
“The Nürburgring has lost its most famous female racing driver,” wrote the post. “Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness.
“We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace Sabine!”
Schmitz first appeared on BBC motoring TV show Top Gear in 2004, when she drove a Transit van around the track.
In 2016 she became a presenter on the new-look show, alongside lead presenters Chris Evans and Matt Le Blanc.
This Sunday’s episode of Top Gear will be dedicated to Schmitz.
“Sabine was a beloved member of the Top Gear family and presenting team since 2016, having first appeared on the show in 2004, and everyone who had the pleasure of working with her on the team is in shock at this news,” said Clare Pizey, Top Gear executive producer.
“Sabine radiated positivity, always wore her cheeky smile no matter how hard things got – and was a force of nature for women drivers in the motoring world.”