‘Such a sunny person’: Jeremy Clarkson leads Sabine Schmitz tributes after Top Gear host dies, aged 51

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Ben Burrows and Jack Rathborn
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Former Top Gear presenter Sabine Schmitz has died aged 51 (PA)
Former Top Gear presenter Sabine Schmitz has died aged 51 (PA)

Tributes have poured in for German racing driver Sabine Schmitz, who has died aged 51, with former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson describing her as “such a sunny person”.

“The Queen of the Nürburgring” racetrack, Schmitz was also a favourite among fans for her role on the BBC’s Top Gear, having first appeared back in 2004 before featuring regularly in the revamped show from 2015 following Clarkson’s departure.

And after Frikadelli Racing, the team she founded with her husband Klaus Abbelen, confirmed the news of her passing on Wednesday, the Grand Tour presenter took to Twitter to pay tribute to his former colleague.

Clarkson wrote: “Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz. Such a sunny person and so full of beans.”

While fellow former Top Gear presenter James May added: “I never thought car makers should be at the ‘Ring, but I always thought Sabine Schmitz should, and would, be. Rotten news. RIP.”

Richard Hammond, the third part of the Grand Tour team, added: “Very sad to hear of the passing of Sabine Schmitz, a proper driving legend who’ll be sadly missed by many. The Ring has lost its Queen. RIP.”

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Current Top Gear presenter Paddy McGuinness also thanked Schmitz for her influence: “She gave me pointers on how to drive a Ferrari very fast and hunted me down in a banger race. Brilliantly bonkers and an amazing human being! RIP the great Sabine Schmitz.”

Fellow presenter Chris Harris also posted: “Rest in peace you wonderful, powerful, hilarious person.”

Schmitz’s fellow driver Sophia Floersch added: “Very sad news for motorsport. Sabine is the queen at Nürburgring.

“She always will be unreachable in the Green Hell. Seeing her races was inspirational and motivating. My deepest condolences to the family. RIP Sabine.”

A statement from Frikadelli Racing read: “Sabine Schmitz (14.5.1969 – 16.3.2021) passed away yesterday (Tuesday) after her brave fight against cancer,” a statement read.

“She was 51 years old. Klaus Abbelen and all relatives and friends are deeply saddened by the immeasurable loss.”

“The Nurburgring has lost its most famous female racing driver,” the Nürburgring’s official account added on social media.

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“Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness. We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace Sabine!”

Schmitz revealed last year she had been battling with cancer since 2017.

“Many of you have probably wondered why I was on the list of participants on our Porsche in the NSL and then didn’t drive after all,” she said in a social media post.

“I would like to provide enlightenment here, I think I owe it to my/our fans!

“Since the end of 2017, I have been fighting an extremely persistent cancer that has not been eliminated with the resources so far. It got a little better – but now it’s come back with full force.

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“Now I have to draw all the strength and nerve to master the next powerful therapies … hoping something [good] will happen. So I say goodbye ‘probably’ for the first time this season.

“In addition, I would like to thank everyone for their help and support in my everyday life, and encouragement in writing!

“So sweethearts, now you have an update. Please stay healthy and cheerful, see you at the ‘Ring.”

The Nürburgring in Germany is one of the most famous and most challenging racetracks in the world, known for its combination of high-speed straights and tight corners.

Schmitz estimated she had completed more than 20,000 laps earning her the “Queen of the Nürburgring” nickname and remains the only female driver to win the famous Nürburgring 24 Hours, doing so twice.