Who doesn’t still remember the old Top Gear episode in which Sabine Schmitz took on Jeremy Clarkson at the Nurburgring, almost beating his lap time while driving a Ford Transit van? She was known as the “Queen of the Nurburgring” and, in that episode, managed to set a blistering lap time in a literal van. Sadly, Schmitz passed away last night, at the age of 51, after a battle with cancer. The world of motorsport has lost a legend.
Since her passing, countless journalists and tv presenters in the industry have made public statements about Schmitz and the best thing about all of them is that they remember her for more than just her driving ability but also her spirit.
During the first season of the Chris Evans-era of Top Gear, Schmitz was one of the presenters, working alongside Evans, Rory Reid, and Chris Harris. Of all of the kind words made toward Schmitz after her passing, one line of Harris stands out. “She was a bundle of energy, one of those people whose resting facial expression was a huge grin,” he said.
Watch any video of her on track and it’s immediately evident just how much fun she was having, even at the limit. No racing driver was more animated and absolutely thrilled to be going so quickly. The sketchier things got, the more she laughed, welcoming the challenge.
Schmitz was the first-ever woman, and still the only woman, to win the 24 Hour of Nurburgring, doing so in a BMW M3 in 1996. And then again in 1997. No one knew the Nurburgring like Sabine, as she was even a Nurburgring Taxi driver, using BMW M5s to shuttle frightened, white-knuckled tourists around the track she knew like the back of her hand.
Growing up just outside of the Nurburgring, Schmitz’s mother owned a hotel, which was the only hotel in town for many years. Which meant countless racing drivers would stay there, which is what bred her love for motorsport. When she was just thirteen years old, she decided she wanted to be a racing driver. She would then go on to win the most iconic race at the most iconic circuit in the world. Twice.
Schmitz clearly left an incredible mark on the world of racing, as countless fans — both professional and otherwise — have poured their love out for her since the news of her passing. She leaves behind her husband Klaus, with whom she started the Frikadelli Racing team. She will be deeply missed by so many. Now go watch videos of her kicking ass on track and scaring the hell out of car nerds who think they know what going fast means.