Sabine Schmitz, 'Queen of the Nuerburgring', dies at 51


(Reuters) - Former racing driver Sabine Schmitz, the 'Queen of the Nuerburgring' who was also a presenter of the popular BBC Top Gear television programme, has died at the age of 51.

The German circuit announced on Wednesday that it had "lost its most famous female racing driver".

"Sabine Schmitz passed away far too early after a long illness. We will miss her and her cheerful nature. Rest in peace Sabine," it said on Twitter.

The German, who grew up near the circuit and won the 24 Hours of Nuerburgring touring car race with BMW in 1996 and 1997, had revealed last year that she was diagnosed with cancer in 2017.

Also known as 'the world's fastest taxi driver' for the passenger rides she gave around the 20.8km Nordschleife -- the north loop of the old 'Green Hell' circuit -- Schmitz estimated she had lapped it more than 20,000 times.

In 2004 she drove a Ford diesel van around the track for a Top Gear episode, lapping in just over 10 minutes -- only nine seconds slower than fellow presenter Jeremy Clarkson's best effort in a Jaguar S-type.

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

(Reporting by Alan Baldwin, editing by Christian Radnedge)

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