German race car driver Sabine Schmitz has died after a years-long battle with cancer. She was 51.
Schmitz died on Tuesday, the Frikadelli Racing Team she founded with her husband Klaus Abbelen confirmed. "Abbelen and all relatives and friends are deeply saddened by the immeasurable loss," the racing team tweeted.
According to ESPN, Schmitz had been diagnosed with cancer back in 2017. She continued racing until 2019, despite her ongoing health issues.
Schmitz, who also appeared on U.K. television series Top Gear, is remembered best for being the only female race car driver to win the annual 24-hour race at the German race track Nürburgring, which is known for its difficulty. She won the race first in 1996, and again with her BMW team in 1997.
"The Nürburgring has lost its most famous female racing driver," the German race track 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!"
The athlete also worked for the racing circuit's ring taxi, driving tourists on a lap of the course — which was located near where Schmitz grew up, CNN reported.
Tributes poured in for the late driver on Wednesday, including from Formula One, which wrote, "Pioneer, champion, Queen of the Nurburgring."
"Sabine Schmitz was a unique, much-loved and cherished member of our sport's family, and a force of nature for inspiring a new generation of motorsport enthusiasts," the motor racing league said.
Top Gear's Chris Harris called Schmitz a "true legend" in a heartfelt blog post about her death.
"She was a bundle of energy, one of those people whose resting facial expression was a huge grin, and she was so much fun to be around and to work alongside," Harris remembered. "She had been battling cancer for some time, but I suppose we just assumed that it being Sabine – unstoppable Sabine – she would win that one as well."
Concluded Harris, "The Top Gear family will miss her terribly, as will her army of fans. Sending our love and thoughts to Klaus, her family, close friends and the Frikadelli Racing team she was so proud of."
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