Inspirational, Women In Motorsport

Sabine Schmitz: ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’

This morning came with some incredibly sad news. It was announced that Sabine Schmitz passed away after a three-year battle with cancer. She was only 51 years old. My heart aches for her family and friends during this awful time. 

This post was a difficult one to write. However, I felt that it was important to talk about the amazing and funny person she was. Her love for motorsport will continue to inspire racers and racing fans for years to come. May she rest in peace.

Sabine was born on May 14th 1969, in Adenau, Germany. She and her two sisters grew up in Nürburg, a region of Germany nearby the famous Nürburgring race track. Sabine had raced in many competitions, but one massive accomplishment was winning the 24 Hours Nürburgring race in 1996 and 1997. She was the first and only woman to win the race. One year later, Sabine won the VLN Endurance Championship, making her the first female champion. She was also a professional racing driver for both BMW and Porsche.

Sabine is pictured here after winning the 24 Hours Nürburgring race in 1997. Source: Sabine Schmitz

A popular television personality, Sabine became a presenter of the British show Top Gear in 2016. She had made her first appearance on the series twelve years prior with Jeremy Clarkson. Sabine also appeared on the car show, Fifth Gear. Her appearances on Top Gear, coupled with her charismatic personality, have made her a household name for motorsport fans.

One of Sabine’s most famous moments on the show was when she challenged Clarkson’s lap time in a Jaguar S-Type around the Nürburgring. He had set a lap time of nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds. Sabine crushed his lap time around the track, setting a time of nine minutes and twelve seconds in the same car. In the video clip shown below, she tries to beat Clarkson’s lap time in the Jaguar around the Nürburgring while driving a transit van. Her result was only eight seconds slower! 

Sabine was well-known for her service as a ‘ring taxi’ around the Nürburgring, where she offered visitors the chance to be driven by her for a price. Her company, Sabine Schmitz Racing, still offers the ‘ring taxis’, but Sabine stopped driving them in 2011.

Tributes for Sabine from racing teams, former colleagues, and even from the account of the Nürburgring itself have poured in. 

Jeremy Clarkson, who she worked with during her time on Top Gear, tweeted this about her death, “Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz. Such a sunny person and so full of beans.”

Paddy McGuinness, who currently hosts Top Gear, said, “She gave me pointers on how to drive a Ferrari very fast and hunted me down in a banger race. Brilliantly bonkers and an amazing human being! RIP the great Sabine Schmitz.”

The official Formula 1 account tweeted, “Pioneer, champion, Queen of the Nurburgring. Sabine Schmitz was a unique, much-loved and cherished member of our sport’s family, and a force of nature for inspiring a new generation of motorsport enthusiasts. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.”

The Nürburgring’s account said of her passing, “Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness. We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace Sabine!”

Aston Martin Cognizant F1 Team tweeted, “Sabine Schmitz was an inspiration to many, she was fast, funny, and quite simply, an amazing woman. The ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’, taken far too soon. Rest in peace, Sabine.”

Source: Sabine Schmitz

What a legend. The impact of her loss has been felt by many. 

Sunday’s episode of Top Gear will be dedicated to Sabine.

Originally published on: March 17 2021

Cover Image Credit: Sabine Schmitz