Beloved Top Gear host and 'Queen of Nürburgring' Sabine Schmitz passes away at age 51

Thursday, March 18

By Ciarán Mather

Former professional race-car driver and female Top Gear guest-host Sabine Schmitz has died at the age of 51.

The late BMW and Porsche driving star passed away following a three-year battle with cancer. 

Schmitz' death was confirmed by the official Twitter account of the Nürburgring circuit, which said: '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!'

Scores of fans paid tribute to the late 'Queen of Nürburgring' online, with a number of them calling on the track to name a corner in her memory:

Top Gear's current host, Chris Harris, has since paid tribute on the show's official website, saying: 'She was a bundle of energy, one of those people whose resting facial expression was a huge grin, and she was so much fun to be around and to work alongside.'

He added: 'The Top Gear family will miss her terribly, as will her army of fans. Sending our love and thoughts to Klaus, her family, close friends and the Frikadelli Racing team she was so proud of.'

Meanwhile, former host Jeremy Clarkson said on Twitter: ' Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz. Such a sunny person and so full of beans.'

Meanwhile, former co-host Richard Hammond said: ' 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. RIP.'

James May also paid tribute to the late driver, saying: 'I never thought car makers should be at the ‘Ring, but I always thought Sabine Schmitz should, and would, be. Rotten news. #RIP.'

Schmitz was a recurring guest-host on Top Gear for over 15 years, and notably came to prominence when, in 2004, she beat host Jeremy Clarkson's time on the circuit (9 minutes and 59 seconds) by 47 seconds; creating a friendly rivalry between the two.

Both drove a Jaguar S-Type during the lap, but Schmitz later bemused both Clarkson and fans even further when she drove the circuit in a Ford Transit van.

She managed to complete the circuit in 10 minutes and eight seconds, just nine seconds shy of Clarkson's time.

Schmitz announced her diagnosis and battle with the disease last year, saying on social media: 'Dear friends of professional motor sport, many of you have probably wondered why I was on the list of participants on our Porsche in the NSL and then didn't drive at all.'

'I would like to provide enlightenment here; I think I owe it to my/our fans!'

She explained: 'Since the end of 2017, I have been fighting an extremely persistent cancer that has not been eliminated with the resources so far. It got a little better – but now it's come back with full force.'

'Now I have to draw all the strength and nerve to master the next powerful therapies … hoping something [good] will happen. So, I say goodbye 'probably' for the first time this season.'

'In addition, I would like to thank everyone for their help and support in my everyday life, and encouragement in writing!'

She concluded: 'So, sweethearts, now you have an update. Please stay healthy and cheerful, see you at the 'Ring.' 

Sabine Schmitz is survived by her family and her partner, fellow race-car driver and butcher Klaus Abbelen. 

If you have been affected by the issues raised in this article, you can call Cancer Nurseline Freefone on 1 800 200 700 or you can visit the website of The Irish Cancer Society by clicking here.