top of page

Gene "Burritto" Romero, "...when what you want is to race!...beyond the pain!"

Updated: Jun 12

Text: Ricardo Matkovich

Photos: web

Gene "Burritto" Romero, 1970, Daytona

Gene Romero excelled in all aspects of motorcycling throughout an extensive and successful career. He had an unlikely start for a motorcycling legend, spending four years racing minis and another two years racing karts. His racing career was redirected by the influence of his neighbor, a motorcycle man, Johnny LaManto. Johnny suggested to Gene that he should try motorcycle racing, and Gene purchased (in installments) Johnny's TRIUMPH Tiger Cub.

Gene "Burritto" Romero and the Flat/Dirt Track

He rode his motorbike on the edge of the local alfalfa fields and it wasn't long before the topic turned to motorbike racing, "My dad said I should race, but I said, 'No, I don't want to do that...' I guess I don't like motorbikes,... until I tried it and I couldn't stop riding!!" Success came quickly in Flat Track/TT races and events, first with the TRIUMPH Tiger Cub, then with a BULTACO and an AERMACCHI Sprint 250cc, sponsored by the local HARLEY-DAVIDSON dealer.

Using a false birth certificate, Romero raced at Ascot Park and, in 1964, at the age of 15, won his first heat and the final.

SAN LUIS CYCLERY sold Romero a TRIUMPH at a discount price and he used it with great success.

Gene "Burritto" Romero and the Flat/Dirt Track

In 1966 he was sponsored by the local dealer and was awarded the AMA Rookie of the Year title.

Gene would make his first national appearance at the Castle Rock TT in Washington and, by that time, TRIUMPH had already noticed this great Californian promise.

For the 1967 season, Gene joined the official TRIUMPH road racing team, riding the unbeatable T100/R 500 cc twin-cylinder at Daytona.

This would be a great opportunity for any rider, even more so for one who, like Gene, did not yet have a national victory under his belt.

Gene at the controls of the TRIUMPH Trident 3 cylinders

Six factory riders were entered, including 1966 winner Buddy Elmore, Gary Nixon, Larry Palmgren, Eddie Mulder and Dick Hammer.

Hammer and Nixon fought for the lead and eventually Nixon and Elmore finished first and second respectively, Romero finishing eighth behind Hammer who was seventh, it was a worthy Daytona debut for the young rider.

That year, Gene grew stronger and stronger, but everything went wrong in Tulare, a brutal accident caused 14 femur fractures and three fractured vertebrae, leg amputation was seriously considered.

He spent the next four months in the hospital and with this horrible accident, he learned one of the most difficult lessons in life.

He would carry the consequences of this episode with him for the rest of his days.

1975, Gene wins the Daytona 200, in this photo, Johnny Cecotto on the left and Steve Baker on the right

At that time, the brands only saw the riders as “cannon fodder” and, therefore, the injured riders were not the target of any kind of solidarity resulting from that. Gene said: “No one wanted anything to do with me, I was forgotten, it was a great life lesson. I found out who the friends were. At that time there was no therapy, everyone had to take care of themselves and do rehabilitation alone.” But Gene was determined to return, he had a lot of confidence in himself and a lot of determination: “There are two things you can bet on!… guaranteed things and yourself.”

YAMAHA, TZ 750, Dirt Track, Daytona 1975 (Kenny Roberts, Gene Romero and Don Castro) and Gene heading to victory

“I had enough money to get to the Midwest and had a few dollars left over to live on, but not enough to buy a motorcycle. Neil Kneen had a spare motorbike and helped me by taking me with him. I ran on Tuesday night in one city and on Wednesday night in another, running whenever possible to make money and grow again.” This was the most difficult part of your story,... overcoming adversity!,... the one with the greatest successes?... this one is easy to find!

We remember you with love and this wonderful photo as the winner of the 1975 Daytona 200.

…very big “burrito”❤



bottom of page