From the Blog

RIP “Burrito”

Gene letting it all hang out (photographer unknown)

New has just come in from the US that American racing legend and all-round good guy, Gene “Burrito” Romero, has passed away, aged 72 years. The Wikipedia entry for him seems palpably weak given the regard in which he was held, but I will include the link anyway.

When I started riding there was no internet and no social media. What we wanted to find out we learned from being there, word of mouth or print media, and it was the print media where I spent most of my time (and all of my money). Every month I would haunt my local newsagent waiting for the latest copies of Cycle World, Cycle Guide, Street Bike and other stateside magazines as well as the local favourites, Two Wheels, AMCN and REVS. And it was through the magazines that I learned about Gene Romero, or “Burrito” as his nickname was.

Gene won the Daytona 200 in early 1975, riding for Yamaha and defeating the favourites that included Kenny Roberts. Winning the 200 was a passport to fame. I didn’t know it at the time that he was ALREADY famous. But that big yellow Yamaha with the stylised “3” on the front somehow struck a chord; after all, anyone who could beat “King Kenny” deserved some cred.

Later, Bruce Brown’s iconic movie, “On Any Sunday” came along and Gene played a pivotal role in it. While its stars were McQueen, Lawwill and Smith, it was Romero who, at the end of the movie, takes the #1 plate from Lawwill after Mert’s dismal season trying to defend his championship. So Burrito was #1 for 1971. He had previously finished 2nd in the 200 in 1970 and 1971.

Details haven’t been revealed at this stage but, at 72, that’s still too young to die, especially considering that he survived a brutal era of racing where riders quite literally diced with death every time they went out to race.

The shockwaves will resound through the racing fraternity for some time yet, but I’ll add my RIP. Gene gave much more to racing than he took away from it. He will be missed.

A beautiful and evocative B&W shot by Jan Burgers of Gene on his way to winning the 200 in 1975.