Always full throttle

Sabine Schmitz is the only woman to have won the legendary 24-hour race at the Nürburgring. It became a legend of the Nordschleife and created more acceptance for women in racing.

Only a few hundred meters as the crow flies from the legendary Nordschleife, in Nürburg, is the Hotel Tiergarten, with its restaurant Pistenklause. It is a mecca for racing fans, teams and drivers. The Schmitz family opened it in 1969, the same year that their daughter Sabine was born as the youngest of three sisters. The big stars of Formula 1 have also come and gone here over the years, autograph photos hang on the walls: Ayrton Senna, Alain Prost, Michael Schumacher, Mika Häkkinen – and also Niki LaudaLittle Sabine especially liked to sit on his lap, her mother Ursula liked to tell.

But another racing world is inextricably linked with the piste den and adorns it with countless photos and posters. It is not so much in the public eye, but it is considered more earthy: that of endurance racing, GT cars, the touring car world, the legendary 24-hour classic, which often attracts over 200,000 spectators in the Eifel forests and on mostly wild camping sites around the Nordschleife, with a campfire, beer and bratwurst.

Sabine Schmitz, the daughter of the Pistenklause owners, never left any doubt that she was drawn to this very world. Even if her family was not at all enthusiastic about it at first, because women in motorsport, that was still unusual at the beginning of the 1990s. But Schmitz wanted to go to the racetracks, especially the NürburgringShortly after taking her driving test, she did the first few laps in her mother’s private car. Although I also trained as a hotel manager in order to have a “serious” mainstay for later professional life, she also regularly helped out in the piste den.