It was 25 years ago this year that Sabine Schmitz was the first female winner of the Nurburgring 24 Hours; she followed it up with another victory in 1997, and took the VLN championship the year after that. Though it wasn't until a few years later that she became known to a mainstream UK automotive audience, Sabine had already established herself as a formidable racing talent on the Nurburgring by the end of the 20th century. 'Queen of the Nordschleife' suited perfectly and stuck quickly - it was a nickname she was always known for and will be remembered as; Sabine, tragically, having lost a four-year battle with cancer yesterday.
Though she became best known over here for her exploits on Top Gear, Sabine was never far from the Nordschleife. She drove the BMW Ring Taxi for tens of thousands of laps and ran a race team, Frikadelli Racing, with her husband Klaus Abbelen. The circuit social media said of Sabine: "The Nürburgring has lost its most famous female racing driver... Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness. We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace Sabine!"
There seemed no better way of celebrating her life than remembering Sabine doing what she did best; not larking about on television, but by being one of the best racers the Nordschleife has ever seen. This video, onboard in a 911 GT3 R, is Sabine at her finest: as the opposition teeters around the track in inclement conditions, she doesn't back off one bit, scything through the field like they're all stuck in second gear. It's a masterclass in how to race at the Nurburgring, considered yet decisive and ruthlessly fast - not that we would ever have expected anything less. Rest in peace, Sabine; thank you for some truly spectacular memories.
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