DRIVERS have paid tribute to Karl Batson following his induction to Porsche Motorsport Australia’s Hall of Fame.
Batson, who retired from Porsche Carrera Cup Australia at the end of the 2023 season, was recognised at the category’s end-of-year Gala Awards in Adelaide.
He made a 20-year contribution as a championship-winning engineer, team manager and mechanic, having attended 149 of the category’s 150 championship and non-championship rounds since the inaugural season in 2003.
For Batson, who has the rare degenerative disease Friedrich’s Ataxia, it’s part of a relationship with the German marque and Porsche Centre Melbourne that stretches to almost four decades, and will continue next year in the Porsche Michelin Sprint Challenge category.
“Porsche means everything to me,” he said.
“I’ve been at Porsche Centre Melbourne for 39 years; I was very pro Porsche and PCM my whole time. It’s been everything, it’s been my life.
“I physically can do the events but it’s the up and down, of looking after my body. I need to trim that out.
“I’ll do (Porsche Michelin Sprint) Challenge with Jonathan Glicksten, who is a massive supporter of my issue, and a young guy Ben Taylor. He’s a great young guy, we share a bit of a disability, and it will be great to see getting results out of him.
“A lot of people have been very kind to me over the journey.”
Batson played a key role in multiple championship and race victories by the German marque across the past three decades, headlined by five national titles and eight Targa Tasmania victories with Jim Richards, plus Craig Baird’s hattrick of Carrera Cup titles between 2011 and 2013.
In more recent years, he has worked with a host of proven talents and young guns through the Porsche Centre Melbourne squad, including Nick McBride, Courtney Prince and Fabian Coulthard.
“I was very addicted to each driver. They were always number one,” Batson said.
“I always found it hard to find them at fault, especially in an accident. I was always very pro them – it was never my drivers’ fault.
“I was so fortunate to have so many good people alongside me.
“With Jim, we’d already won three championships in Nations Cup and in the last year of that I was preparing for Carrera Cup 100 percent. We dominated 2003 and that was a big deal, and we came second the next two years.
“With Bairdo, to have three in a row and to clean sweep that model of car was very special, but the relationships were the most important thing.
“A highlight was when we looked after Jeroen Bleekemolen at Bathurst. It was like this year where there were two cars on the main straight and everyone else coming out of the Chase.
“To look after both cars, swapping lap records both laps – and fortunately Bairdo got it – that was incredible.”
For Richards, his relationship with Batson stretches back to the 1990s when he began racing a Porsche 968 CS with Peter Fitzgerald in what became GT-Production racing.
From mid-1999, Batson switched across to prepare Richards’ cars exclusively, initially out of Richards’ home garage and later his Ringwood workshop, in addition to his day-job at Porsche Centre Melbourne.
“Karl was responsible for all my racing, organising and more of a team manager and chief mechanic rolled into one,” Richards said.
“He’s a great guy, great personality and we all got along fantastically well.
“2003 was a huge year for Carrera Cup. We didn’t really know what was involved and for my little team, with Karl, it was a matter of getting his experience and without that I’m sure we wouldn’t have won all those races.
“Karl was the main reason I won so many races and he just made it very, very easy for us.
“He worked as a mechanic and a manager but most importantly he was a great friend.”
Alex Davison, who succeeded Richards as Carrera Cup champion in 2004 after a stint racing Porsches overseas, later worked with Batson when he became Richards’ driver for the 2007 season.
“When I first went to Germany, Karl was going over at the same time as an exchange program PCA (Porsche Cars Australia) was doing with Porsche Motorsport,” Davison recalled.
“That was 24 years ago and we’ve been very close friends ever since. Karl is one of those guys who you struggle to find a bad word to say about. I’ve known him for over 20 years, and I don’t remember him saying a bad word about someone else as well.
“We got to work together once while driving for Jim Richards, which is a season we still look back on with really fond memories. We’ve always wanted to work together again and would have loved to win a championship together.
“No one in the paddock would have a bad thing to say about the guy. Seeing the enthusiasm that he presses on with and his passion for the sport even with the difficulties he has had with the health battles, he’s still here.”
Baird’s first two Carrera Cup titles came competing against Batson prior to the category going on hiatus in 2009, but the pair joined forces when it restarted in 2011 and won the next three titles on the bounce.
“He’s one of my best mates and a definite legend of our sport,” Baird said.
“When I joined Porsche, the person you had to knock off was Karl Batson.
“His friendship, his personality, his humor, his understanding – I would trust my children’s life with him.
“We’ve had some good times together and I’ll certainly miss seeing him in the pit lane.”
Batson’s recent battle with Friedrich’s Ataxia has inspired the ‘Racing to beat FA’ cause which appears on many cars competing across Porsche Motorsport Australia categories, helping to raise awareness and funds in a bid to find a cure for the disease.
He is the fourth person inducted to the Porsche Motorsport Australia Hall of Fame, with Richards, Baird and the late Jamey Blaikie comprising the inaugural class in 2021.