Top Gear‘s Sabine Schmitz has died aged 51 after a three-year battle with cancer.
The German dubbed the ‘Queen of the Nurburgring’, revealed last July that she had been suffering from ‘an extremely persistent cancer’ since 2017.
Schmitz had become synonymous with the Nurburgring Nordschleife, the 14-mile circuit in Germany that is renowned as the toughest in the world.
She won the 24-hour touring car race at the track twice, in 1996 and 1997, driving a BMW M3.
She became known as the “Queen of the Nurburgring” and estimated she had driven around the track more than 20,000 times.
Schmitz later gained acclaim for an appearance on Top Gear in 2004 in which she drove a van around the track, and subsequently became a presenter on the show alongside Chris Evans in 2016.
Top Gear presenter Sabine Schmitz answers media questions during the launch of Top Gear at Dunsfold Aerodrome in Surrey in 2016
“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.”
Top Gear presenter Chris Harris said Schmitz was a “wonderful, powerful, hilarious person” while the show’s former presenter Jeremy Clarkson paid tribute by tweeting she was “such a sunny person and so full of beans”.
Formula 1 said Schmitz was “a force of nature” who inspired “a new generation of motorsport enthusiasts”.
Rest in peace you wonderful, powerful, hilarious person. pic.twitter.com/nwXgBwZsbE
— chris harris (@harrismonkey) March 17, 2021
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 pic.twitter.com/nwrLyZvXla
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 17, 2021
The Nürburgring has 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! pic.twitter.com/MFKNNFOSDU
— Nürburgring (@nuerburgring) March 17, 2021