Sabine Schmitz is one name that immediately comes to mind when thinking of the Nurbugring Nordschleife. With around 20,000 laps of the track behind her Sabine is one person eminently qualified to talk about this awe inspiring circuit. Whether it is behind the wheel of the BMW Ring-Taxi, or in front of an audience on BBC’s TopGear, she is an entertainer through and through. It is evident in her media work, and even in this interview, that Sabine has a great sense of humour, and in agreeing to speak with AUSringers it is clear she is a good sport as well.
AUSringers: Welcome to AUSringers Sabine, and thanks for being so generous with your time. TopGear was the program that really raised your profile in Australia. When you were instructing Jeremy Clarkson you commented that his driving style is ‘really funny’, can you usually judge a person’s driving technique so quickly?
Sabine Schmitz: I am instructing many people on the Nordschleife or in Spa Francorchamps. Usually I know nearly everything about somebody’s driving style when we are half way out of the pits.
Ar: In all the driver training you have done has there ever been someone with limited track day experience that you have seen and thought, wow, this person is really quite good?
SS: Sometimes there is one. The main thing to be good in a short time is to listen what the instructor says and to remember. To make it easier I try to explain the same things in every lap (in respect to ideal lines).
Ar: If you could give one piece of advice for a person doing their first lap at the Ring what would it be?
SS: May I drive first?
Ar: Can you tell me how your role with the BMW Ring-Taxi first started?
SS: I had a contract as a works driver with BMW and I raced with the M3 endurance on the Nordschleife. Nürburg is my hometown, it was an easy decision for BMW to put me as a driver into the Taxi (I think?!).
Ar: Getting paid to drive around the Nurburgring would be a dream come true for many motoring fans, but is the Ring-Taxi job a passion, do you really love it, or have you turned up to work one day and thought, oh no, not another lap?!
SS: The job is fun. I am doing it since 16 years and it is still exciting. The boring thing is to find the way on and off the track. It’s so busy there sometimes and the car park is poorly designed.
Ar: Do you think the increasing popularity of the Nurburgring is good or bad? Are there too many people wanting to experience the Nordschleife now and can this compromise safety?
SS: There are year by year more rules to make the driving safer. Now we have many signs at the Nordschleife: how to overtake, watch out for fluids on the track, etc … but only in German!
Ar: When was the last time you bought yourself a ticket to drive a lap at the Ring?
SS: I’ve never bought a ticket. It’s a Christmas gift every year to get one ticket for the season. Sometimes I drive with my boyfriend – like a driving lesson.
Ar: Is there any part of the track that you always find difficult to get right, alternatively which part of the track do you most look forward to every lap?
SS: Yes, the GP Circuit. I hate it! The most exciting part I love very much is Schwedenkreuz and Fuchsröhre.
Ar: Is there anything about the track you would change?
SS: To change the GP Circuit back to Südschleife (Southloop).
Ar: Most people would have an element of fear when tackling the Nordschleife, do you think this fear is a good thing?
SS: Respect would be better. Fear disturbs your concentration.
Ar: What is the most amazing thing that you have seen someone else do at the Nurburgring?
SS: Ruf Porsche Video (the whole track sideways in a yellow 911).
Ar: In April last year Nick Heidfeld drove an F1 car around the Nordschleife for the first time in 30 years, were you there, and if so can you describe what it was like? Would you like to see F1 could return to the Nordschleife?
SS: It was very nice to see him driving in a F1 car around the Nordschleife. The sound was amazing. But it’s impossible to race there with these cars. The F1 car is constructed for boring racetracks.
Ar: When you are not driving a car, what do you like doing most? What are your other interests in life?
SS: I have 2 horses (American Paint), a dog and I love to fly helicopters (Bell Jetranger and Hughes 500). I like scuba diving very much, but I had twice bad luck at the Great Barrier Reef because of the weather! I have my own TV Show DMotor in Germany for Discovery Channel. It’s similar to TopGear, very funny and a bit cheeky. The show is weekly every Monday night.
Ar: You have so much driving experience, race wins, testing, instructing, and so on, what is the one thing in your career that you are most proud of?
SS: To win the 24 hour Race twice and that I’ve never crashed the Taxi.
Ar: Do you have anything left you would like to achieve in your driving career, do you have any regrets?
SS: No regrets, but I would like to win the 24h of Daytona … because of the watch!
Ar: Last question! I’ll assume the Ford Transit van is the worst vehicle you have driven around the Nordschleife, but of all the cars you have driven around the track, if you could pick just one, what would it be?
SS: DTM Car from 1995: I have driven the AMG 190 Mercedes together with Kurt Thiim in a race on the Nordschleife – unbelieveable – but the engine blew up when Kurt was driving.
AUSringers thanks Sabine again for her time. AUSringers would like to recommend you all take a ride in the BMW Ring-Taxi and, if you can, tune in to DMotor every Monday night!
Images (from top to bottom):
- Sabine on TopGear
- Sabine instructing Jeremy Clarkson
- BMW Ring-Taxi
- Sabine on DMotor
- Sabine behind the wheel of a Ford Transit