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‘Pioneer, champion, queen’: Formula 1 pays tribute to Nurburgring 24 Hours legend Sabine Schmitz after her death from cancer at 51

‘Pioneer, champion, queen’: Formula 1 pays tribute to Nurburgring 24 Hours legend Sabine Schmitz after her death from cancer at 51
Formula One chiefs, fans and colleagues from her career on television have paid glowing tributes to female racing pioneer and Nurburgring Nordschleife winner Sabine Schmitz following the announcement of her death at the age of 51.

The hugely popular driver for BMW and Porsche won the 24-hour touring car race at the 14-mile circuit in Germany, which is infamous for being the toughest in the world, in 1996 and 1997 – becoming the only woman ever to achieve the feat.

After an initial entertaining appearance on hit UK TV television program 'Top Gear', Schmitz became a presenter on the motoring show in 2016, but was diagnosed with cancer the following year.

Describing Schmitz as "a trailblazer of the motorsport community", Formula One announced: "Pioneer, champion, Queen of the Nurburgring.

"Sabine Schmitz was a unique, much-loved and cherished member of our sport's family, and a force of nature for inspiring a new generation of motorsport enthusiasts. Our thoughts are with her family and friends at this sad time."

The Nurburgring said it had "lost its most famous female racing driver." "Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness," it added. "We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace."

Chris Reinke, the Head of Audi Sport customer racing, offered "deepest condolences" on the group's behalf.

"She was a respected driver and 24-hour race winner with incredible passion for racing," he said.

Two of the best-known presenters in the UK, Jeremy Clarkson and Paddy McGuinness, worked with Schmitz during her time anchoring 'Top Gear'.

"Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz," wrote Clarkson. "Such a sunny person and so full of beans."

Comedian McGuinness called Schmitz "the great". "I spent a glorious couple of days in a Ferrari with Sabine," he told his following of more than 1.8 million on Instagram.

"She gave me pointers on how to drive a Ferrari very fast and hunted me down in a banger race.

"What a woman, what a legacy, what a life. Brilliantly bonkers and an amazing human being. Very sad news."

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