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Farewell To the Queen of the Nürburgring

As a female motoring blogger, I was very sorry to hear that one of my motoring heroines, Sabine Schmitz, passed away recently.  It’s particularly poignant when I realized that she was only a few years older than me.

If you aren’t sure who I’m talking about, I’m referring to the German motor show presenter who appeared frequently on the British motoring show Top Gear.  We first met her in a 2004 episode, where she became Jeremy Clarkson’s nemesis, as she was a German (groan!) woman (gasp!) who beat Jeremy Clarkson around the Nürburgring (ouch!) in a diesel (eek!) van (aaagh!).  I know I definitely loved it when she made it around the Ring in less than 10 minutes.  This wasn’t her first appearance on a Top Gear show (she appeared briefly in a 2002 special) and it wasn’t her last, either. In fact, after the ousting of the Unholy Trinity of Clarkson, Hammond and May, she was selected by the BBC as one of the new presenters.

Sabine was one of three daughters of restaurant owners who lived near the famous Nürburgring.  She and her sisters all participated in motorsports, but she was the most successful of the three. During her racing career, she won the 24-hour Nürburgring challenge twice (both times in a BMW), as well as placing third, ninth and sixth in Porsches (if you’re looking it up, you’ll find her under her married name of Sabine Reck).  She operated a “taxi service” professionally in the Nürburgring, and later added driver training to her company portfolio.  It’s probably no exaggeration to say that she knew the Nürburgring ring like I know my neighbourhood roads. The track was her neighbourhood road.

As she was known not only for her driving skills but also for her sparkling personality, she appeared frequently on the German equivalent of Top Gear, a show called D Motor. She also provided commentary for motorsports from time to time, becoming known for her sense of humour.

I always enjoyed watching the episodes of Top Gear when she appeared, and it was fantastic to see a woman succeeding in what has traditionally been a very male-dominated area – which is odd, when you come to think about it, given that it was a German woman, Bertha Benz, who brought the motorcar to public attention in the first place. She was a great role model for girls learning to drive and showed the public that driving well is not necessarily a “boy thing”.

She was, unfortunately, diagnosed with a very aggressive cancer in 2017, although this was not made public until last year. She fought it hard, but lost the battle a few weeks ago.  I’m sure I won’t be the only one who misses her and will be disappointed not to see any more of her.

One more time, let’s enjoy one of her iconic Nürburgring laps in a van for Top Gear that we loved so much:

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