The German racing driver, widely known as the “Queen of the Nürburgring”, has been suffering a long illness with cancer. She won the 24 Hours Nurburgring in back-to-back years in 1996 and 1997 as well as the NLS in 1998. Schmitz also ran a famous taxi service around the track for years having grown up a short distance away from the Nurburgring . Her track expertise earned her a role on Top Gear from 2004 and she was a huge part of the revamp of the show following the departures of Jeremy Clarkson, James May and Richard Hammond in 2015.

Paying tribute to the famous driver, legendary motorsport complex the Nürburgring tweeted: “The Nürburgring has 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!”

Sabine Schmitz became known to the general public for her appearances on Top Gear. Presenter Paddy McGuinness paid tribute to the driver, describing her as “an amazing human being”. “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,” he wrote on Twitter.

Sabine was first seen on British TV taking ex-Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson around the ring taxi in 2002’s Jeremy Clarkson Meets the Neighbours.

She had also previously starred alongside the original Top Gear line up and appeared on the show from time to time from 2004 onwards.

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