Sabine Schmitz ‘Queen of the Nurburgring’ dies, aged 51

Sabine Schmitz dies at 51
Photo via Sabine Schmitz Motorsport (Facebook)

Former racing driver, BBC Top Gear host and legendary Ring Taxi driver Sabine Schmitz, has died at the age of 51 after a long battle with cancer.

“Sabine Schmitz left us much too early,” the Nurburgring (German race circuit) announced on Wednesday. With the famous circuit saying it had lost its most famous female racing driver.

“Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness. We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace Sabine,” the Nurburgring tweeted.

Schmitz had been diagnosed with cancer in 2017 but only announced this publicly last year. She’ll forever be remembered by motorsport fans for becoming the first woman to win the Nurburgring 24 hour race in 1996 and again in 1997.

More than just a demon racing driver, Schmitz was the most famous Ring Taxi driver, “Countless co-drivers experienced a speedy drive by their side over the most demanding race track in the world – the 20.8 kilometer long Nordschleife,” the Nurburgring said. Schmitz herself said she’d lapped the ‘Ring more than 20,000 times in her life, although she stopped driving the taxi herself in 2011.

Schmitz was one of the hosts of D Motor in Germany and had been since 2006 but she burst onto international TV much earlier than that when Jeremy Clarkson shot, ‘Jeremy Clarkson: Meet the Neighbours’ episode (2002) with Schmitz driving Clarkson around the Nurburgring.

Following that, there was the famous episode on Top Gear where Schmitz tried to better Clarkson’s time in a Jaguar S-Type diesel around the Nurburgring in a Ford Transit. She missed his time by just nine seconds.

“Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz,” wrote Clarkson on social media. “Such a sunny person and so full of beans.”

“With Sabine Schmitz we are losing a cheerful, committed woman. It was part of the Nürburgring all its life and will continue to be so,” the Nurburgring concluded.

There is now a call for a corner of the track to be renamed in her honour. Want to sign the petition then click here. In the meantime, enjoy watching Schmitz thrash a Transit van around the Nurburgring. RIP Sabine.

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Isaac Bober has been writing about cars and 4x4s for more than 20 years, has worked on some of the country's biggest motoring magazines (remember what they were?), and launched Practical Motoring. Now he's back, back again... to share dad jokes and much more.