German race car pioneer Sabine Schmitz has died. She was 51 years old. Sadly, she lost her battle with the cancer she was diagnosed with back in 2017. She was the first (and only) female driver to win the 24-hour race on the famed Nürburgring circuit. In addition to her racing, Schmitz was a well-regarded television host in Europe, where she enjoyed celebrity status. Despite her cancer diagnosis, Schmitz continued racing cars until 2019.
Schmitz grew up near Nürburgring, one of the most fearsome and respected racetracks in the world. The track is notorious for winding through the hills of western Germany. Its 13-mile Nordschleife configuration is regarded as one of the most dangerous tracks on the planet. It has caused more than a few serious crashes over the years. It’s also a famous proving ground for new performance vehicles.
Queen of the Nürburbing
Schmitz succeeded in winning the 24-hour race at Nürburgring in both 1996 and 1997 as part of a team driving a BMW M3. She also won the VLN championship of endurance races at the Nürburgring in 1998.
In Germany, Schmitz became known as the “Queen of the Nürburgring” for her familiarity with the track. By the time she stopped racing in 2019, Schmitz was regarded as a Nürburgring specialist. She had at least 20,000 laps of the track under her belt. She also ran her own racing team with her husband, called Frikadelli Racing.
In 2004, Schmitz was featured on the popular British car show Top Gear in a segment about the Nordschleife. She soon became a regular guest and fan favorite of the program. Starting in 2016, she was a regular part of the show’s regular on-air personalities. In a written statement, the BBC said the next episode of the long-running show will be dedicated to Schmitz’s memory.
Schmitz also worked on a German TV show and ran a tourist ranch near the Nürburgring, where she sometimes took adventurous tourists around the track. The racing community is almost always dominated by males, but Schmitz was never afraid to stand out or take charge behind the wheel. She will be missed by racing fans around the world.