Former Top Gear host and racing driver Sabine Schmitz has died at the age of 51, the Nurburgring circuit announced yesterday.

Schmitz, who was known as the ‘Queen of the Nurburgring’ – one of the world’s most famous racetracks in Germany – drew fame after appearing on Top Gear in the early 2000s. Here, she appeared alongside then-host Jeremy Clarkson by lapping the infamous circuit in under 10 minutes in a Ford Transit van.

Later, she would join the motoring show as a presenter, appearing alongside stars such as Chris Harris, Matt LeBlanc and Chris Evans. Schmitz is also famous for being the only woman to ever win the gruelling Nurburgring 24 hours race, held at the track known for one of being the most challenging in the world, and is thought to have lapped the track more than 20,000 times across her career.

The Nurburgring circuit announced the sad passing on Twitter, saying: “The Nurburgring 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.”

Schmitz revealed last year she had been battling cancer since 2017, with many celebrities taking to Twitter to share their tributes following her passing.

Jeremy Clarkson tweeted: “Terrible news about Sabine Schmitz. Such a sunny person and so full of beans,” while current Top Gear presenter Chris Harris said: “Rest in peace you wonderful, powerful, hilarious person” as the two stars appeared in a joking picture next to a dune buggy.

This Sunday’s episode of Top Gear will pay tribute to Schmitz. The show’s executive producer Clare Pizey said: “Sabine radiated positivity, always wore her cheeky smile no matter how hard things got – and was a force of nature for women drivers in the motoring world.”