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!'
The Nürburgring has lost its most famous female racing driver.— Nürburgring (@nuerburgring) March 17, 2021
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
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:
Sabine Schmitz isn’t gone, she is just one lap ahead. ❤️ RIP ❤️— 𝓜𝓲𝓰𝓾𝓮𝓵 🏁 (@FormulaMiguel) March 17, 2021
Without a doubt one of the most inspirational women I've ever had the pleasure of meeting, now I myself am fighting her fight against cancer and will hold her in my memories as a reminder to never give up. RIP Sabine Schmitz 💔🙏 pic.twitter.com/mbuyL5rTse— 🇪🇺 Typhon (& Holden!) ✊🏿✊🏾✊🏽 (@DaleSly1) March 17, 2021
I was passed by Sabine in an M5, between Flugplatz and Schweden-Kreux, while riding the Ducati in my profile. I was at c.130mph (200kph) and she went past so fast it seemed I was standing still! M5 ‘looked’ out of control! Great driver and a super personality. Very sad news. 😞— Neil Martin (@nsm3uk) March 17, 2021
Sabine Corner please. Don’t think, just do it 🙏🏼— AutoPap (@AutoPap) March 17, 2021
@nuerburgring my condolences on the loss of an amazing woman, she was an incredible driver, only got to know her by watching her on "top gear" please know that we in the UK feel your pain and loss, our hearts and prayers are with you and her family.— Haydn Jones (@HaydnJo07168862) March 17, 2021
Very regretful news. It reinforces the fact life is precious & tragically can be cut short.— TheHovingham (@TheHovinghamInn) March 17, 2021
Most of us probably all sweat the small stuff too much. Maybe we should focus more on living, even if that takes difficult decisions at times.
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.'
Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz. Such a sunny person and so full of beans.— Jeremy Clarkson (@JeremyClarkson) March 17, 2021
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.'
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— Richard Hammond (@RichardHammond) March 17, 2021
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.'
I never thought car makers should be at the ‘Ring, but I always thought Sabine Schmitz should, and would, be. Rotten news. #RIP— James May (@MrJamesMay) March 17, 2021
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.