Sabine Schmitz, with Top Gear presenters Matt LeBlanc, Chris Evans, Chris Harris, Rory Reid and The Stig in the BBC studio. Image Credit: John Rogers/BBC Worldwide

Racing driver Sabine Schmitz — the only female to win the legendary Nurburgring 24 Hours — died on Wednesday at the age of 51.

The German — who was also famous for presenting BBC motorsports TV show ‘Top Gear’, where she regularly upstaged and outperformed her male counterparts — had been battling cancer sinbce 2017.

But it was at the Nurburgring Nordschleife, the 14-mile circuit in Germany, regarded as the toughest racetrack in the world, where she made her name, winning the 24-hour touring car race in 1996 and 1997 in her BMW M3, earning the nickname the “Queen of the Nurburgring”

Tributes poured in for the ever-smiling Schmitz, with Clare Pizey, ‘Top gear’ executive producer, saying: “Sabine was a beloved member of the Top Gear family and presenting team since 2016, having first appeared on the show in 2004, and everyone who had the pleasure of working with her on the team is in shock at this news.

“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.

“Like everyone else who knew her, we will truly miss her — Sabine really was one of a kind. Our thoughts are with her partner Klaus, who was always by her side and who we welcomed to Dunsfold many times, and her family in Germany.”

Schmitz’s co-presenter Chris Harris tweeted: “Rest in peace you wonderful, powerful, hilarious person.”

Former presenter Jeremy Clarkson called Schmitz “such a sunny person and so full of beans”, while Richard Hammod, who also presented the show, wrote: “Very sad to hear of the passing of Sabine Schmitz, a proper driving legend who’ll be sadly missed by many. The Ring has lost its Queen. RIP.”