Sabine Schmitz, the German race car best known to TV audiences as a presenter on Top Gear, has died at the age of 51.
Last July, Schmitz revealed in a Facebook post that she was battling “an extremely persistent cancer.” On Tuesday, Frikadelli Racing confirmed that Schmitz had succumb to the disease.
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In 1996, Schmitz became the first woman to win the 24 Hours Nürburgring, an annual 24-hour touring car and GT endurance racing event. She repeated the feat a year later, and became known as the “Queen of the Nürburgring.”
Schmitz gained wider recognition in 2004 after her inaugural appearance on Top Gear, where she bested Jeremy Clarkson’s best lap around the Nürburgring in a Jaguar S-Type by 47 seconds. Schmitz was brought back for two additional episodes during the Clarkson era, in 2005 and 2008.
“Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz,” Clarkson wrote on Twitter. “Such a sunny person and so full of beans.” Added Richard Hammond, “Very sad to hear of the passing of Sabine Schmitz, a proper driving legend who’ll be sadly missed by many. The Ring has lost its Queen.”
In 2016, Schmitz returned to Top Gear as an official presenter of the post-Clarkson era. She made her final appearance in October, during Season 28.
“Sabine was a beloved member of the Top Gear family and presenting team since 2016, having first appeared on the show in 2004, and everyone who had the pleasure of working with her on the team is in shock at this news,” executive producer Clare Pizey said in a statement. “The ‘Queen of the Nurburgring,’ 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.”
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