Formula One chiefs, fans and colleagues from her career on television have paid glowing tributes to female racing pioneer and Nurburgring Nordschleife winner Sabine Schmitz following the announcement of her death at the age of 51.
The hugely popular driver for BMW and Porsche won the 24-hour touring car race at the 14-mile circuit in Germany, which is infamous for being the toughest in the world, in 1996 and 1997 – becoming the only woman ever to achieve the feat.
After an initial entertaining appearance on hit UK TV television program ‘Top Gear’, Schmitz became a presenter on the motoring show in 2016, but was diagnosed with cancer the following year.
Describing Schmitz as “a trailblazer of the motorsport community”, Formula One announced: “Pioneer, champion, Queen of the Nurburgring.
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! pic.twitter.com/MFKNNFOSDU
— Nürburgring (@nuerburgring) March 17, 2021
Pioneer, champion, Queen of the NurburgringSabine Schmitz was a unique, much-loved and cherished member of our sport’s family, and a force of nature for inspiring a new generation of motorsport enthusiastsOur thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time pic.twitter.com/nwrLyZvXla
— Formula 1 (@F1) March 17, 2021
“Sabine Schmitz was a unique, much-loved and cherished member of our sport’s family, and a force of nature for inspiring a new generation of motorsport enthusiasts. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time.”
The Nurburgring said it had “lost its most famous female racing driver.” “Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness,” it added. “We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace.”
Chris Reinke, the Head of Audi Sport customer racing, offered “deepest condolences” on the group’s behalf.
We’re saddened to hear of Sabine Schmitz’s passing: “On behalf of everyone at Audi Sport, I would like to express my deepest condolences,” said Chris Reinke, Head of Audi Sport customer racing. “She was a respected driver and 24-hr race winner with incredible passion for racing.” pic.twitter.com/9kTWpte4wd
— Audi Sport (@audisport) March 17, 2021
The motorsport world has lost one of its most famous and most likeable female race drivers. Sabine Schmitz passed away after long illness. Our hearts and thoughts are with her family. We’ll always remember her smile, her cheerful way and her speed on the Nürburgring. RIP, Sabine! pic.twitter.com/0itZZJD6vq
— Volkswagen Motorsport (@volkswagenms) March 17, 2021
“She was a respected driver and 24-hour race winner with incredible passion for racing,” he said.
Two of the best-known presenters in the UK, Jeremy Clarkson and Paddy McGuinness, worked with Schmitz during her time anchoring ‘Top Gear’.
“Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz,” wrote Clarkson. “Such a sunny person and so full of beans.”
With great sadness we have received the news that Sabine Schmitz has passed away. She will always be remembered within the BMW family as a great person, a Nürburgring legend, a pioneer for female race drivers and a 24h-race winner with BMW. Our thoughts are with her family. pic.twitter.com/FWLbb3M8Ty
— BMW Motorsport (@BMWMotorsport) March 17, 2021
She gave me pointers on how to drive a Ferrari very fast and hunted me down in a banger race. Brilliantly bonkers and an amazing human being! RIP the great Sabine Schmitz. pic.twitter.com/awtbOnMD90
— Paddy McGuinness 💙 (@PaddyMcGuinness) March 17, 2021
Comedian McGuinness called Schmitz “the great”. “I spent a glorious couple of days in a Ferrari with Sabine,” he told his following of more than 1.8 million on Instagram.
“She gave me pointers on how to drive a Ferrari very fast and hunted me down in a banger race.
“What a woman, what a legacy, what a life. Brilliantly bonkers and an amazing human being. Very sad news.”