It is with great sadness that we bring you the news this week of the passing of not one, but two, significant names in the world of Porsche motorsport.
We were informed on Tuesday that Manfred Kremer passed away at the age of 81 years, and then on Wednesday, we got the news that Sabine Schmitz, the ‘Queen of the Nürburgring’ had also passed away. These two personalities, although a generation apart, brought success and exposure to the Porsche brand in very different ways.
Manfred Kremer: 1940-2021
The Kremer brothers, together with friend Hermann Bürvenich, started their workshop in 1962 in Cologne, Germany. The elder brother, Erwin, was the racing driver while Manfred, the quiet one, was the engineer who preferred to stay in the background. Kremer Racing grew from strength to strength and in 1970 they entered a Porsche 911 ST in the 24 Hours of Le Mans. They finished seventh overall that year, and so began the team’s climb up the ladder with bigger and better cars until in the late ‘70s Kremer modified the Porsche factory’s cars to their own specification. This resulted in the 935 K3 with which the team won the 1979 24 Hours of Le Mans outright, the first Porsche privateer team to do so in the history of the race.
There followed another 24-hour victory, this time in the 1995 Daytona race with their K8, an open-topped Spyder version of the 962, but featuring their own chassis design. The Kremers were always pushing the design and development envelope and it showed in their record of achievements.
It was Manfred who masterminded the K-series bodywork modifications (K1, K2, K3 and K4), and after their ’79 Le Mans win, he went on to develop the CK5, CK6, K7 and K8 models. Manfred retired in ’98 and moved back and forth between his holiday home in Spain, and his home in Germany, but after the death of his brother Erwin in 2006, he bought the company back in order to preserve the family name. After almost five decades of success in the motorsport industry, Manfred sold the company in 2010 to a private entrepreneur.
The legend of Kremer Racing rose to become a real force in the world of sportscar and GT racing, with the likes of John Fitzpatrick, Derek Bell, Bob Wollek and many other top names driving for the team from Cologne. The days when a small operation such as the Kremer brothers built are probably long gone, but their memory will live on for many years to come.
Sabine Schmitz: 1969-2021
Born in Adenau, Sabine Schmitz is the only woman to have won the Nürburgring 24 Hours, not once but twice! But before her racing career, Schmitz trained as a Hotelfachfrau (graduate in hotel and catering business) and was particularly knowledgeable in wines. This was probably her expected career seeing that she and her two sisters grew up in the Hotel am Tiergarten, right alongside the entrance to the Nürburgring circuit.
Although all three sisters took to racing, but it was Sabine who embraced the sport in a big way, quickly making a name for herself. In 1996, Sabine became the first female to win the Nürburgring 24 Hours, driving a BMW M3 together with Johannes Scheid and Hans Widmann. Not content with just that one win, she repeated the victory the following year driving a BMW M3 with Johannes Scheid, Hans-Jürgen Tiemann and Peter Zakowski.
Sabine Schmitz became famous around the world for her rides around the ‘Ring in her taxi, a BMW M5. Sabine’s warm charm and outgoing character earned her many friends and supporters around the world. Along with her husband, Klaus Abbelen, they formed the Frikadelli Racing team, a top Porsche racing team. Not content with only staying on the ground, Sabine Schmitz was also a qualified helicopter pilot.
In July 2020, Sabine Schmitz revealed on Facebook that she had been suffering from ‘an extremely persistent cancer’ since late 2017. Although it was thought that the disease was in remission, it was not, and she died on 16 March. There is speculation that the owners of the Nürburgring will consider naming a corner or a part of the Nordschleife after Sabine, which would be a fitting tribute to such a vivacious and memorable character who did so much to lift the name of the Nürburgring.
The world of motorsport, and Porsche racing in particular, has lost two much admired and highly respected personalities. All the staff at Porsche Road & Race, would like to extend their heartfelt sympathies to the two families.
It is in the basement of the Hotel am Tiergarten that the Pistenklause restaurant is located. My first visit to the Nürburgring was in 2019 with my wife, and we had been strongly advised to call in and have a meal in this establishment. It was a beautiful sunny summers day, and we had just spent a week covering the Le Mans 24 Hours, so we were in racing mode, and a meal in a ‘racing’ restaurant was just the ticket. What a gem of a place, so be advised to pay this restaurant a visit when next at the circuit!
Written by: Glen Smale
Images by: Porsche Archive and Virtual Motorpix/Glen Smale