I’m pretty sure nearly everyone who reads this site is at least aware of that Top Gear episode where a very fast German woman drove a diesel Ford Transit van around the legendary Nürburgring. That woman was legendary racing driver Sabine Schmitz, who sadly died today at the far-too-young age of 51, after a long struggle with cancer.
Just in case you haven’t seen that famous clip, which provides a wonderful little glimpse at just how talented and charming Schmitz was, here you go:
Schmitz literally grew up inside the famous track, as her parents ran a restaurant in the basement of the Hotel am Tiergarten, which is within the Nordschleife loop. Schmitz trained as a hotelier and sommelier, but after a first drive around the track at 15, she soon realized she was destined to be a racer, and drove the track, by her estimation, over 30,000 times.
Schmitz was the first woman to win the Nürburgring’s 24 hour race in 1996, and two years later became the first woman to win the VLN Endurance Championship, in a BMW M3.
Schmitz drove a BMW “ring taxi” for years, taking passengers on hot laps around the ring, likely both terrifying them and delighting them.
Her quick wit and energetic persona, along with her formidable driving skills made her an ideal guest and presenter on car-focused media of all kinds. Along with her well-known appearances on the BBC’s Top Gear, Schmitz was host of her own show, DMotor.
Back in 2010, a BMW series of short films had this nice little interview with Schmitz, just talking about herself and life as she whips a BMW around:
Sabine Schmitz was one of those rare people who seems to have been admired and genuinely liked by nearly everyone she’s worked with, as one can see with a quick peek at the reaction to her passing on social media.
This is absolutely miserable news; we know that cancer doesn’t care about how delightful or skilled or loved someone was, but it still feels unfair.