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Mark Briggs was an innovator, grandfather, and fisherman as well as a fierce and important supporter of the Australian road racing scene for two decades

Never heard of Mark Briggs, aka ‘Stratt’? He was an innovator, facilitator and behind-the-scenes guy who helped many racers as a sponsor and team owner, and former racers as an employer.

His nickname came from engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton. His true given name was Richard. Briggs died in February 2022 from on-going health issues while at dinner with friends on the NSW North Coast. He was 68. 

The company he founded in 1978, FibreFlash, grew to employ 45 staff, including former racers Jeff and Murray Sayle, Dave Moore, Benn Archibald, Murray’s wife Rhonda (nee Willing) and other members of the Sayle/Willing clan. 

Rhonda Sayle ran front of house and was regarded by Briggs as indispensable to the business. 

FibreFlash was headquartered at Riverstone in Sydney’s west, with branches at Nowra and Wyong, and in Queensland. It also provided workshop space for PR Products (Ron Taylor, Graeme McMillan and Peter McMillan).

In the 1990s, it housed a dyno for American GP team owner Erv Kanemoto – being 21km from Eastern Creek Raceway. Kanemoto at the time backed two of the three Aoki brothers. 

Briggs sponsored numerous local riders, including Jeff Sayle, Craig Connell, Jason Boyle, Archibald, Andrew ‘Smiley’ Thompson and Rohan Pask. He was especially committed to the 250 GP class, which the team saw as an ideal training ground for GP racers. He also ran a Kawasaki Motors Australia-supplied Superbike. 

Briggs learned about fibreglass as a trainee Qantas technician and making surfboards. Jeff Sayle recalls meeting him around 1974, when he was making motorcycle race fairings and seats. “If you had a fibreglass need, you went to Stratt.”

In 1978, Briggs obtained a business start-up grant to found FibreFlash Waterproofing Solutions. He had seen the need for membranes to cure leaking showers in older homes. 

In 1983, Jeff Sayle came home from Europe after a disastrous year with Austrian engineer Harald Bartol’s rotary disc-valve 250 racer. He needed a job and Briggs hired him to schedule bathroom renovations. He never left, even when offered the role of Yamaha Dealer Team manager. Sayle was sponsored on Yamaha TZ250s until 1989.

Briggs became friends with Bartol and enjoyed some great drives through Europe in Bartol’s Audi quattro. Legend has it that Austrian police clocked it at the highest road speed in the country.  

In the 1990s, Briggs combined his innovational and organisational talents to leverage his race sponsorship. He sourced two Honda RS250R machines and tuning kits from Japan, and fielded the most professional local wildcard team in the Australian GP. None more so than 1994, when the Connell finished 11th, behind 10 factory-spec machines. 

That year, the team went to the AGP with three goals: achieve the best local team result since Daryl Beattie’s fourth on a factory bike in 1990, finish ahead of Rene Bongers on the Yamaha Australia entry, and record the fastest lap by a resident rider at the ’Creek. Not just the best local 250 lap, but challenge Troy Corser’s then best Superbike lap of 1m34.67s. Connell’s best race lap was 1m34.718s, even with some chatter issues.  

The crew that meeting consisted of the two Sayles, Dave Moore, Dave Bonner, Harry Stone and Shaun Sutcliffe. They looked the business, too, as Briggs had hired a graphic artist to design the leathers, team uniforms and paint scheme, and bought quality casual apparel.  

Over the course of the meeting, 150 trade suppliers and building contractors were ushered into the paddock, with Jeff Sayle providing the low-down on how the team, bikes and GP worked. ‘Father and son’ day was especially popular.    

Briggs liked to joke that for what he poured into racing, he might have had two BMW sedans. He eventually owned the Porsche he had set his eyes on, as well as a property at Smithtown, near South West Rocks.

Outside of racing and business, Briggs was a grandfather and a keen fisherman. Jeff Sayle told the story at his farewell of a barramundi fishing trip, when they noticed a barra hiding under the boat. They made some noise and the startled fish leaped into the boat. A good catch with not a mark on the prey.  

Words Don Cox + Photos  Phil Aynsley