Imagine doing more than 20,000 laps on a particular track – the very thought itself is quite staggering. Now, pile on those miles on a place like the Nurburgring, and it makes the achievement just downright astounding.

That number of laps is what Sabine Schmitz says she’s amassed on the legendary circuit, and the 41-year-old Queen of the Ring – who gained much attention as a BMW Ring Taxi driver shuttling passengers around the track – continues to do about 1,200 laps each year, which is really a lot of kilometres given the length of the circuit.

Schmitz’s impressive statistic is just part of the many interesting facts about the mythical Nordschleife, which has remained a one-way, public toll-road (a lap costs 22 Euros per car or motorbike) for the last eight decades since its opening in 1927, closed off only for testing purposes or racing events – the track has proven to be something of a favourite proving ground for many car manufacturers.

Effectively, during Touristenfahrten periods, the track is open to anyone with a road legal car or motorcycle, as well as buses and motor homes, with road laws in effect during this time. With the exception of speed limits in certain areas and overtaking on the right, the road is simply an invitation to drive – the lack of oncoming traffic and stops sets it apart from normal roads, and the absence of a fixed speed limit adds to its allure.

A little point about numbers: if you buy a ticket on a tourist day, you won’t be able to complete the full 20.8 km of the Nordschleife – rather, you do 200 metres less because you have to slow down and go through the area where the toll-gate is. Most timed runs start from the first bridge up to the gantry.

Statistically, many of the lap times have been taken with this shorter length. The fastest production car to lap the Ring is currently the Radical SR8 LM at 6 mins 48 secs, piloted by Michael Vergers last year, while the second fastest (6:55) also happens to be another Radical SR8, also driven by Vergers, in 2005.

Over the current full 20.8 km length though, the blistering 6:11.13 record set by the late Stefan Bellof in a Group C Porsche 956 during a qualifying session in May 1983 remains the best time ever achieved – it should prove unbeatable. And, as mentioned previously, Niki Lauda’s time of 6:58:6 in a Ferrari 312T set during qualifying for the German GP in 1975 remains the only time a car has dipped under seven minutes over what was then a longer 22.8 km course.

Famously called the Green Hell by Jackie Stewart in 1968, the Nordschleife is an unforgiving mistress – with plenty of blind-in and blind-out corners, few run-off areas and an abundance of solid objects skirting the track (namely the forest, which is where the Green bit comes from, presumably!), getting it wrong means meeting something once one goes off the tarmac. If one is lucky, this translates into nothing more than an expensive mess of metal, but with the speeds carried by many drivers, more inevitably occurs.

The Ring claims a number of fatalities each year – anywhere from three up to 12 people lose their lives attempting the track, with a high proportion being motorcyclists. In competition, the Ring has taken no less than 68 drivers, the last being earlier this year during the third round of the 2010 ADAC ACAS H&R Cup, when Leonhard Löwenstein died of smoke inhalation after his Aston Martin V8 Vantage overturned, hit a guardrail and caught fire at Bergwerk.

There are of course safer ways to go about the business – those looking for the thrill of speed can let someone do the driving, and the BMW Ring-Taxi should prove definitely more interesting than your usual ride to the airport. Since 1986, the service has carried more than 90,000 passengers, clocking up over 650,000 km and 300,000 laps. A lap or three with the likes of Schmitz or Claudia Hürtgen should easily prove to sexists that women can drive very well, and very fast. Now, taxi, anyone?