German race driver Sabine Schmitz, who was known for her joyful character and served as a presenter on BBC hit show Top Gear, died at the age of 51 on Tuesday.
Having been the only woman to win the epic 24-hour race at the storied Nürburgring track in Germany, she later became one of Top Gear’s participants on the BBC show. She also revealed last year that she had been suffering from cancer since 2017.
Having spent her childhood around the Nürburgring track in West Germany, considered as one of the world’s most famous tracks, she had always loved cars and speed and was able to complete more than 20,000 laps of that circuit.
“I never had to learn the track,” she once said. “It’s in my blood.”
Known as the Queen of the Nurburgring, her death has prompted tributes from the BBC, the team behind Amazon’s The Grand Tour, and the motor racing world.
Top Gear executive producer Clare Pizey said: “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.
“The ‘Queen of the Nurburgring’, 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. Like everyone else who knew her, we will truly miss her – Sabine really was one of a kind. Our thoughts are with her partner Klaus who was always by her side and who we welcomed to Dunsfold many times, and her family in Germany.”
Former presenter James May added: “I never thought car makers should be at the ‘Ring, but I always thought Sabine Schmitz should, and would, be. Rotten news.” Richard Hammond said: “Very sad to hear of the passing of Sabine Schmitz, a proper driving legend who’ll be sadly missed by many.”
Although she appeared on Top Gear many times over the years, she was synonymous with Chris Evans and Matt LeBlanc’s period hosting the BBC Studios motoring brand from 2016. She became known for making her passengers sick because of the speed with which she drove.
Sabine Schmitz was a cheerful and spirited driver that was known as the “Queen of the Nürburgring”
She and her husband, Klaus Abbelen, founded the racing team Frikadelli Racing.
Sabine Schmitz was born on May 14, 1969, in Adenau, in Western Germany. The daughter of a wholesaler and a hotel manager in the village of Nurburg, near the border with Belgium, she grew up less than a mile from the Nürburgring complex, and although she trained as a hotelier, she had wanted to be a racing driver since she was 13, she said.
The new Nordschleife, which was modified when Schmitz was 2, became her playground. She was able to recite the names of the 73 turns by heart, and she first completed it at age 17 — with her mother’s car, before she had a driving license.
“They put on racing tires, took off the license plates and raced it on the track,” Beat Schmitz said about Sabine and the family. “My mother would drive that same car to the hairdresser or to do groceries.”
He added, “It’s just like the kid who is born next to the soccer stadium and is in a soccer team at 5.”
Sabine Schmitz was a German professional motor racing driver for BMW and Porsche. She was also known for driving the BMW “ring taxi” around the Nürburgring race track as well as being a television personality.
Sunday’s episode of Top Gear will be dedicated to Schmitz. We send out our condolences to the family and may her cheerful soul rest in peace.
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Author: Allan Bangirana
Allan Bangirana has a taste for all kinds of topics and usually writes about tech, entertainment, sports and community projects that make a difference in society.