Sabine Schmitz, the German professional racing driver who gained fame as the ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’ and ‘the world’s fastest taxi driver’ has passed away after a long battle with cancer. She was 51.
Schmitz was destined to become a professional racing driver, growing up within the confines of the Nürburgring Nordschleife where her family ran the Hotel am Tiergarten.
Schmitz turned to racing in the 1990s, and was soon winning races, including claiming the title in the 1998 VLN Endurance Racing Championship (contested exclusively around the Nordschleife) as well as winning the Nürburgring 24 Hours outright twice, in 1996 and again in 1997.
Her feats earned her the nickname ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’, a reputation only enhanced by the estimated 20,000 laps of the fearsome 20.8km Nordschleife in her role as a ‘ring taxi driver’, Schmitz regularly taking passengers for hot laps of the circuit in a BMW M5. Schmitz once estimated she completed around 1200 laps a year of the fearsome track.
She ran her own company, Sabine Schmitz Motorsport, offering advanced driver training and hot laps of the Nordscheife, becoming known as the ‘world’s fastest taxi’ driver.
Her growing reputation led to several television appearances, including most notably the BBC’s Top Gear where she became a semi-regular. Often pitted against the show’s co-host Jeremy Clarkson, Schmitz would regularly embarrass him with her feats behind the wheel.
One episode in particular gained her notoriety. Under her guidance, Clarkson lapped the Nordschleife in a Jaguar S Type in a respectable time of 9m59s. Schmitz joked with the host, telling Clarkson, “I tell you something, I do that lap time in a van”.
She warmed up by completing lap in the same Jaguar S Type in 9m12s before switching to a humble Ford Transit van. She fell just short of eclipsing Clarkson’s time, although her 10m8s lap was enough to cement her cult-like status.
Later, Schmitz joined Top Gear as a semi-permanent host, dovetailing her appearances with regular slots on German TV.
Clarkson paid tribute to Schmitz on social media, describing her as a ”sunny person” who was always “full of beans”.
“Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz. Such a sunny person and so full of beans,” added Clarkson.
Current Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness wrote: “Brilliantly bonkers and an amazing human being! RIP the great Sabine Schmitz”, while fellow presenter Chris Harris added, “Rest in peace you wonderful, powerful, hilarious person”.
Schmitz revealed in 2020 she bad been battling cancer for the past three years. She lost her battle on 17 March, 2021. She was 51.
Sabine Schmitz, 1969-2021