German racing driver and TV personality Sabine Schmitz died Tuesday after a yearslong battle with cancer.
Schmitz, 51, grew up in her family’s hotel located within the confines of the 13-mile Nürburgring Nordschleife racing circuit and went on to become one of the track’s most successful drivers and most recognizable face, earning her the nickname of “Queen of the Ring.”
She is estimated to have completed 20,000 laps of the track and is the only female winner of the grueling 24 Hours of Nürburgring race, having won back-to-back events in 1996 and 1997.
Schmitz rose to global fame after appearing on the BBC show “Top Gear” in 2002 in a segment where she and host Richard Hammond attempted to drive a commercial van around the track in under 10 minutes.
She then went on to become a co-host on the show in a cast that included “Friends” star Matt LeBlanc and appeared on several other shows in Germany and the U.K.
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Schmitz publically revealed last July in a Facebook post that she had been dealing with the condition since 2017, writing: “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.”
Many of her former colleagues and co-stars paid tribute to Schmitz on social media following the news of her death.