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Sabine Schmitz (1969–2021), racing driver and “Top Gear” star

by Linnea Crowther

Sabine Schmitz was a racing driver who was the first and, to date, only woman to win the famed 24 Hours Nürburgring race. She was also a star of TV’s “Top Gear.”

Queen of the Nürburgring

Schmitz became known as the “Queen of the Nürburgring” for her familiarity with the 15.8-mile track in Western Germany. She won the 24-hour endurance race in 1996 and came back to win it again the following year. Schmitz was also known for entertaining racing fans by taking them for a high-speed lap around the track in a BMW, calling herself “the fastest taxi driver in the world.” She first appeared on the BBC automotive show “Top Gear” in 2004, beating presenter Jeremy Clarkson with a lap time of nine hours and 12 seconds around the Nürburgring. Later, she drove a Ford van around the track in 10 minutes and eight seconds. After several more appearances over the years, Schmitz joined “Top Gear” as a presenter in 2016.

Schmitz on driving tourists on the Nürburgring

“It’s really fun to scare people. They love to get scared, so they pay me for that.” —from a 2010 “Top Gear” episode

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Tributes to Sabine Schmitz

Full obituary: The New York Times

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