Sabine Schmitz (Sabine Reck while married; born 14 May 1969) is a German professional motor racing driver for BMW and Porsche, also known for driving the BMW "ring taxi" around the Nürburgring race track as well as being a television personality. She has presented the BBC's motoring programme Top Gear since May 2016.
Born to the local hotel and restaurant owning Schmitz family, Sabine and her two elder sisters grew up in the "Hotel am Tiergarten" (in the basement of which is the Pistenklause restaurant) in Nürburg within the Nürburgring Nordschleife.
Schmitz trained as Hotelfachfrau (graduate in hotel and catering business) and sommelière. During her marriage to a hotelier she lived in Pulheim, but after her divorce in 2000, up until 2003, she owned a bar-restaurant in Nürburg named the Fuchsröhre (Foxhole) after a track section. In 2004 she qualified as a helicopter pilot.
Following occasional drives with the family car on the Nordschleife, all three sisters started racing, but only Sabine continued and collected victories. Schmitz won in CHC and VLN race events, the VLN endurance racing championship in 1998, and won the 24 Hours Nürburgring, in 1996 and 1997, all with a BMW M3 entered and co-driven by local veteran Johannes Scheid. In 2006 Schmitz and Klaus Abbelen drove the #97 Porsche 997 in the Nürburgring VLN endurance racing series, entered by Land Motorsport. They finished third in the 24h 2008, beaten only by the factory-backed Manthey-entered winners of 2007 and 2006.
Schmitz came to mass public attention driving one of the two BMW M5 "ring taxis" around the 20.8 km-long race track in an entertaining manner.
According to her own estimates, Schmitz has gone around the track more than 20,000 times, increasing by approximately 1,200 per year. Her familiarity with the circuit earned her the nicknames "Queen of the Nürburgring" and "the fastest taxi driver in the world". She says her favourite parts of the track are Schwedenkreuz ("Swedish Cross") and Fuchsröhre ("Fox Hole").
Her company, Nürburgring-based Sabine Schmitz Motorsport, offers advanced driver training and a "ring taxi" service for passengers. Schmitz herself ceased driving the "ring taxi" in 2011.
As a result of her popularity as "the fastest taxi driver in the world", and charisma, Schmitz became an occasional motorsport guest commentator, known for her gleefully dry descriptions of driving incidents. Since September 2006, Schmitz has co-hosted a motoring show on German television, D Motor on the DMAX TV channel. In each show, she takes on another challenge, for example Schmitz in a Ferrari 360 vs. a 1200 hp Race Truck, or Schmitz in a Formula Renault race car vs. a race sidecar. She has also appeared on 5th Gear.
Her first appearance on British television was on the 2002 BBC programme Jeremy Clarkson: Meets the Neighbours, where she took Clarkson around the Nürburgring in the "ring taxi".
In December 2004, Schmitz gained further recognition in the United Kingdom after appearing in the BBC television show Top Gear with presenter Jeremy Clarkson. After Clarkson (under her tutelage) set a lap time of 9 minutes 59 seconds around the Nürburgring in a Jaguar S-Type diesel (Season 5, Episode 5), she castigated his best lap with the comment "I tell you something, I do that lap time in a van". She did a lap in the Jaguar S-Type, and set a time of 9 minutes 12 seconds, beating him by 47 seconds. When trying to film Schmitz as she drove the S-Type, the film crew were unable to keep up, and had to get Jaguar test driver Wolfgang Schubauer to drive the Jaguar S-Type R chase car. Schmitz drove a Ford Transit diesel van in an attempt to beat Clarkson's time set in the Jaguar S-Type diesel. Her final time with the Transit was 10 minutes and 8 seconds (Series 6, Episode 7).
In March 2015, The Guardian featured a satirical article calling for Schmitz to be the new presenter of Top Gear in order to gracefully cancel the show, concluding that "She has appeared from time to time on Top Gear in the past, and shown herself to possess exactly the right mix of knowledge and boisterousness for the job every time. Plus, she is both German and a woman, a combination of traits so alien to the majority of Top Gear viewers that the whole show would probably self-destruct within an hour of her taking the job. And surely, at this point, that would, as they say, be the best outcome for everyone involved."
In December 2015 The Daily Telegraph reported that Schmitz had been selected as a presenter on the revamped Top Gear. This was later confirmed by the BBC in February 2016, along with the announcement of several new presenters for the show.
- 24 Hours Nürburgring: Overall winner in 1996 and 1997 (BMW), third in 2008 (Porsche), ninth in 2011 (Porsche), sixth in 2012 (Porsche)
Complete World Touring Car Championship results
(key) (Races in bold indicate pole position) (Races in italics indicate fastest lap)
|2015||All–Inkl.com Münnich Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||ARG1
|2016||All-Inkl.com Münnich Motorsport||Chevrolet RML Cruze TC1||FRA1||FRA2||SVK1||SVK2||HUN1||HUN2||MAR1||MAR2||GER1