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Sabine Schmitz, the former host of U.K. motoring show Top Gear and best known in the car racing world for being the only woman to win the German Nurburgring 24 Hours, a feat that earned her the title “Queen of the Nurburgring,” has died. She was 51.
She revealed last year that she had been diagnosed with cancer in 2017. A statement issued by the Nurburgring racing track in Germany said that it had “lost its most famous female racing driver.”
It added: “Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness. We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace Sabine!”
Born in Germany, Schmitz became synonymous with the Nurburgring Nordschleife, the 14-mile circuit renowned as the toughest in the world. She won the 24-hour touring car race at the track twice, in 1996 and 1997.
Outside of racing, she became known as a regular on the long-running BBC show Top Gear, first appearing in 2004 and then joining as a presenter as part of a new lineup of hosts in 2016. This Sunday’s episode of Top Gear will be dedicated to Schmitz.
In a statement, Top Gear executive producer Clare Pizey described Schmitz as a “beloved member of the Top Gear family,” while tributes came in from other names on the show past and present.
Jeremy Clarkson, the former host who appeared alongside her in a number of episodes, tweeted: “Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz. Such a sunny person and so full of beans.”
Current host Paddy McGuinness tweeted: “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.”
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