EKN’s One to Watch: Ethan Booher
Shifterkart racing is a big part of karting’s history, dating back to the late 70s and early 80s in Europe. The craze of shifting gears cruising just one inch off the ground really hit the USA in the 90s and has continued on into a fourth decade. The state of California is where many of the big name shifterkart drivers came from in the 1990s and 2000s and the region continues to produce some of the best in the sport. Ethan Booher is looking to add his name to that list is, as one of the newest shifterkart drivers in the GFC Karting stable, and he’s quickly adapting in his first full season.
A native of El Dorado Hill, California, Booher was introduced to the sport of karting at the age of 12 when he was invited to a birthday party at the Prairie City Kart Track in Rancho Cordova. His father – Douglas – began talking to the track owner and was provided information about a Briggs 206 kart. Ethan jumped at the idea of racing one and they dove into racing at Prairie City. He would qualify sixth in his first race, earning his first podium later in the season. After racing the Briggs category for four months, they made the move up to the Junior 100cc class, racing at the Northern Nevada Karting Club in Reno during the summer of 2021.
The move up to the quicker 2-cycle powerplant brought about more challenges for the Boohers. After a few events in the new class, they began looking for assistance. Family friend Preston Lambert was already racing for GFC Karting and suggested making the move to their driver development program with him. In September, Ethan joined GFC for the remainder of the season and committed to a full 2022 season.
The focus for Booher during the first part of the 2022 season was competing at the ROK Sonoma program, where he was able to secure his first career victory, backing it up with a runner-up finish the following round. He expanded his participation to national level racing, including the Challenge of the Americas and the Superkarts! USA Pro Tour.
“Ethan joined our team as a Junior 100cc driver with good speed and not much experience, so we just needed to start ironing out a few things with his technique,” stated GFC Karting Team Manager Sonny Cervelli. “Ethan spent all of his first regional and national race weekends trying to soak in all the valuable information from his teammates and our coaching staff. We really focused on keeping his mental strength high, making his race craft more precise, and helped him gain a better understanding when learning new tracks.”
The middle portion of the 2022 season featured a few changes. One of which was a move to Florida in August. The second was jumping up to the Senior level and switching to the shifterkart division. With the help from Cole Shade, who sold him a shifter engine and lots of parts, along with Pat Beckley selling them the chassis, Booher went to work with the GFC driver development program in a shifterkart campaign. The transition was better than expected as Booher rapidly progressed through the development. Booher now was competing in the ROK Shifter category at ROK Sonoma to close out the season. He competed in the final five of six events for the program, with a best finish of fifth on two occasions.
“It has been a real pleasure watching Ethan’s progression up through the karting ranks,” added Gary Carlton of GFC Karting. “It seems like just yesterday I was teaching the general dynamics of karting and now within a year I’m explaining what needle he needs for his KZ engine. It’s crazy how quickly he has progressed. I take enormous pride in our development program when I see drivers progress so quickly like Ethan has. It shows our philosophy and methods come with massive amounts of substance for both new drivers all the way up to drivers with high experience. Without giving away our secrets, we definitely have a different approach on teaching drivers in all aspects of karting.”
Moving into the 2023 season, Booher joined GFC Karting at the Challenge of the Americas program. Racing alongside series champion Kyle Wick and series race winner Jacob Gulick, Booher was able to learn from two of the best in the country when the action began at the Musselman Honda Circuit in Tucson, Arizona. Ethan drove his way into the top-five both days, just a few tenths off the pace of the top-two GFC drivers. It was at the Phoenix Kart Racing Association facility where his pace improved even more. His fast lap in each of the main events was just a few hundredths off that of race winner Gulick’s, driving to his first Challenge podium finishes of his career with third place each day. That helped him to go on and earn the third spot in the series championship. At home, Booher made his first starts at the ROK Cup USA Florida Winter Tour, recording a best finish of seventh at the Piquet Race Park event in February, placing eighth in the series championship.
“The goal has always been to win,” stated Booher. “I think that’s what any passionate driver should have as their goal, but I knew it was going to take lots of time and effort. I am patient and attentive, and now I am competing with some of the best in the country, hopefully veering close to that first win.”
Booher was back on track this past weekend, taking part in the Sunshine State Karting Challenge. Ethan was able to notch his first shifterkart victory, competing in the Round One action at the Andersen RacePark on the gulf side of Florida. He will be rejoining the GFC Karting squad at the Superkarts! USA Pro Tour SpringNationals for his series debut in Pro Shifter. Ethan will also make his United States Pro Kart Series debut at the New Castle Motorsports Park at the end of June. His plans also include competing at both major events to close out the season – the ROK Vegas in October and the SKUSA SuperNationals 26 in November. Watch for Booher to be creeping his way up the order each weekend, contending for more podiums and that elusive victory in the near future.