The Nürburgring Queen, Sabine Schmitz, Has Passed Away

Last year, the automotive world mourned the loss of Sir Stirling Moss. And today, another racing legend has left us. Anyone who’s scoured through Nürburgring records and lap footage has undoubtedly heard of Sabine Schmitz. Sadly, on Tuesday, March 16th, 2021, the “Queen of the Nürburgring” passed away.

The undisputed “Queen of the Nürburgring,” Sabine Schmitz

Sabine Schmitz in her car at the Nürburgring in 2014
Sabine Schmitz in her car at the Nürburgring | Thomas Frey/picture alliance via Getty Images

Sabine Schmitz’s connection to the Nürburgring racing circuit was practically established at birth. Her family still owns and runs the Pistenklause, a hotel with adjoining bar and restaurant “beloved by ‘Ring aficionados”—and located right next to the track, Road & Track explains. And Sabine, along with all her sisters, got into racing from a young age. She actually ran her first lap of the track when she was 17 (without a license) behind the wheel of her mother’s BMW, Autoweek reports.

Born in 1969, Sabine Schmitz was long regarded as one of the best drivers on the Nürburgring’s 13-mile Nordschleife circuit, The Drive reports. It’s estimated she ran over 20,000 laps there, both as a professional racer and behind the wheel of one of the BMW M5 ‘Ring Taxis. And she’s still the only female racing driver to ever win the 24 Hours of the Nürburgring—which she did in 1996 and 1997.

But the famous racing circuit, nicknamed ‘the Green Hell,’ would earn Sabine Schmitz even greater fame. In 2004 she helped tutor then-Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson on how to get around it. And while Clarkson ran a 9:59 lap in a Jaguar S-Type, Schmitz boasted that she “‘could do that lap time in a van,'” Car and Driver reports. Also, she ran a 9:12 lap in the Jaguar, R&T reports.

Besides being a racer, Sabine Schmitz was also a Top Gear regular guest and co-host

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One year after her first appearance, Top Gear decided to take Sabine Schmitz up on her boast. The BBC show supplied her with a diesel Ford Transit van to try and set a sub-10-minute Nürburgring lap time. She didn’t quite make that time, but her 10: time was nonetheless extremely impressive.

The video of her lapping attempts became a viral hit and marked the beginning of regular Top Gear appearances for Sabine Schmitz. And in 2016, she became a full-fledged contributor and co-host. Plus, Schmitz also hosted her own German car program, DMotor, Jalopnik reports.

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When she wasn’t hosting TV, Sabine Schmitz was racing for her team, Frikadelli Racing. She founded the team with her husband, Klaus Abellen, whom she met—where else—while competing in the 2006 VLN championship, Petrolicious reports. And up until a few years ago, Schmitz and Abellen often co-drove their team’s Porsche 911 GT3 racers.

The entire motoring world mourns her passing

Throughout her life, Sabine Schmitz was “a bundle of energy,” her Top Gear co-host Chris Harris says. She didn’t quit racing until 2019, two years after she had been diagnosed with cancer, Autoblog reports. Sadly, her passing was due to said cancer; she was 51.

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The Nürburgring team, along with her Top Gear co-hosts, and indeed the entire racing world, mourn her passing. And the upcoming Top Gear episode on Sunday, March 21, 2021, will be dedicated to her memory.

Auf wiedersehen, Sabine Shmitz.

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