Sabine Schmitz, the first and only female race car driver to win the annual 24-hour race on the famed Nurburgring circuit and a renowned TV personality, has died. She was 51. Schmitz had been ill with cancer since 2017 and continued racing until 2019. The 24-hour race’s organizers said she died Tuesday following “a years-long battle with her disease.”
Schmitz moved through lower-level racing categories before winning the 24-hour race in 1996 and 1997 as part of a team driving a BMW M3. She also won the VLN championship of endurance races at the Nurburgring in 1998.
Schmitz was a Nurburgring specialist with at least 20,000 laps of the track on her own and in “Ring Taxi” rides for tourists. She also ran her own team, Frikadelli Racing, with her husband.
In 2004, Schmitz was featured for the first time on the British motoring TV show “Top Gear” in a segment about the Nordschleife. She soon became a regular guest star and fan favorite, and from 2016 was part of the show’s regular team.