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Grand Prix racing’s mystery man. So much so that simple biographical details for Robert O’Brien such as dates of birth and death differ from source-to-source. Rumours of involvement with the CIA are among the unsubstantiated and fanciful claims about his life.
What is known is that O’Brien (was that his real name?) had finished fourth in the inaugural Sebring 12 Hours in 1952 when sharing a Ferrari 166MM with Richard Cicurel. He then travelled to Europe and drove Johnny Claes’ regular Gordini T15 in the 1952 Belgian GP at Spa-Francorchamps. He qualified last when a full 1min 23sec off Alberto Ascari’s pole time before finishing in 14th position. At least Autosport seemed impressed – "O’Brien was driving really well… not taking any needless risks or doing anything foolish".
He also drove the yellow car on the peculiar ring-road Grenzlandring circuit but that was the sum total of his obscure racing career. It is thought that O’Brien was later involved in the motor industry in his home state.