Sabine Schmitz, 'Queen of the Nürburgring,' dead at 51

    Schmitz grew up near Germany's legendary Nürburgring circuit.

    (CNN)Tributes have flooded in for German racing driver Sabine Schmitz, who has died at the age of 51.

    Widely known as the "Queen of the Nürburgring," Schmitz was one of motor racing's highest-profile female drivers and a regular guest on UK TV motoring show "Top Gear."
    She died on Tuesday after a "brave fight against cancer," according to a tweet from Frikadelli Racing, a motorsport team Schmitz founded with husband Klaus Abbelen, a fellow racing driver.
      "Klaus Abbelen and all relatives and friends are deeply saddened by the immeasurable loss," the tweet reads.
        Schmitz went on to make regular appearances on British motoring show "Top Gear."
        Schmitz grew up close to the Nürburgring circuit in western Germany. In 1996, she became the first woman to win its famous 24 Hours race, driving a BMW. The following year, she repeated the feat.
        Schmitz also worked as a driver on the circuit's "ring taxi," which offers visitors the chance to do a lap of the course as a passenger.
        "The Nürburgring has lost its most famous female racing driver," the circuit wrote on Twitter.
        "Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness. We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace Sabine!"
        Schmitz also raced for the Porsche motorsport team, which posted its own tribute on Twitter.
        "Very sad to hear that Sabine Schmitz (1969-2021) has passed away. The "Queen of Nordschleife" was a crowd favourite due to her open, humorous way," the tweet reads. "Our sympathy goes to her family and friends."
        Schmitz went on to make regular appearances on "Top Gear," and the show's former host, Jeremy Clarkson, tweeted: "Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz. Such a sunny person and so full of beans."
          Current host Paddy McGuinness also posted a tribute.
          "She gave me pointers on how to drive a Ferrari very fast and hunted me down in a banger race," he tweeted. "Brilliantly bonkers and an amazing human being! RIP the great Sabine Schmitz."