Early Group A days
The 1985 season saw the introduction of the international Group A rules with O’Brien on the sidelines. He was approached to drive Lawrie Nelson’s privateer Ford Mustang at Bathurst that year – and cringes at the memory. “I helped him sort it out and make it driveable. I was five second a lap quicker then Lawrie after two sessions. He was a bit casual. There were electrical problems in the race and I didn’t get a drive.”
For 1986 O’Brien was approached by fellow Ford stalwart Murray Carter to build a Nissan Skyline DR30. Whilst this marriage of convenience would work on the track – the duo finished a strong 10th overall at Bathurst despite starting 42nd after an oil filter blew off in qualifying – it was a different story off the track, as O’Brien ruefully explains.
“It was a handshake deal with Carter, 50-50. I bought a new car direct from Nissan. My mechanic Grant O’Neill went to Carter’s Melbourne workshop to build the car. I was the one tipping all the money in. Fred Gibson (from Nissan Motorsport) was good with parts and technical support. After Bathurst Carter told me he was doing all the ATCC rounds in 1987.” In dispute was who owned the car. “I got my legal counsel involved and eventually we settled on the steps of the Supreme Court in Canberra. I received two post-dated cheques for $25,000 each and he got his car.”