A Rev. has been brought in to help Newport's speedway side rev itself out of the pits and towards victory. Mike Buckingham was there to see priest and television personality Lionel Fanthorpe vanquish a gypsy curse.

NEWPORT Wasps speedway team believes it now has more than a ghost of a chance of victory following a trackside exorcism at its Hayley Stadium.

With crucifix held aloft and a sprinkling of holy water, television celebrity and priest Lionel Fanthorpe expelled a gypsy curse which for a decade has seen the Wasps stung by successive defeats.

The ritual complete, the only spirit left drifting over the track, grandstands and workshop was from the petrol tanks of the high-octane speedway machines.

"After the club's highly successful 1999 season some gypsies camped in the car park and Tim Stone, who has since passed on, confronted them and in no uncertain terms told them what to do with their caravans" Nick Mallett who at 22 is Britain's youngest speedway promoter, said.

"As they packed up to go an old woman came out of one of the caravan and shouted a curse.

"Since then not only have the Wasps had an appalling run of luck but my house has been robbed, my mum has had a car crash and Craig Watson our star rider has broken limbs and his ankle.

"After that an a lot more besides you begin to think there's something in this gypsy curse business."

Potent though the curse may have been there have been plenty of positive vibes for the Rev. Fanthorpe to harness.

Tim Stone, a locally-based businessman brought speedway back to Newport in 1997 following a 20-year absence.

Fired up with enthusiasm for the sport an army of volunteer supporters built Hayley Stadium on the Queensway meadows industrial estate.

Within two seasons the Wasps who are the senior side were British Premier Trophy winners and British Premier League runners up and the Mavericks, the junior team lifted the Conference League title.

"Everything was looking marvellous until the confrontation in the car park" Mr Mallett continued.

"Tim won the day but the gyspy woman's curse has lingered.

"She threw a wooden spoon at him and goodness knows, that's exactly what we've been collecting year after year.

"I can't say I'm a great believer in this sort of thing but we'll give absolutely anything a shot.

"Last year we finished last in the British Premier League table after losing Craig Watson due to a pre-season broken leg so something has to be done."

His Sydney drawl hardly touched by Newport inflections despite long service with the side ace rider Craig Watson confided "I’ve never really been into this sort of thing.

"But heck, I've broken my leg and ankles and a lot of freaky things have happened so my attitude is let's give it a shot."

As a vanquisher of evil spirits the Wasps could hardly have done better than the ebullient Fanthorpe, priest, motorcyclist, television character and author on a number of subjects some of them touching on the bizarre and the supernatural.

In priestly apparel, he first sprinkled holy water before holding his Crucifix aloft and reciting short extracts from Genesis and Numbers before invoking the Lord's help in chasing away the malign spirit.

"Lord, we ask you to bless and protect this place, those who administer it and ride here and who come here to support the team.

"Lift the dark forces of negativity and let it forthwith be a place of enjoyment and success."

Although he can do exorcisms the Rev Fanthorpe explained, the Hayley Stadium ritual was more in the nature of a blessing.

It is generally felt that a curse by illegally-camped gypsies who at some time or another Mr Stone may not have allowed to tarmac his drive doesn't rank sufficiently highly as Satanic diabolism goes.

I would like to be able to report that with a tortured and violent shrieking the evil spirit took its leave of Hayley Stadium.

In fact only a slight breeze stirred the hem of the Rev. Fanthorpe's chasuble.

I asked him that should he be passing Mr Joe Coral's wagering establishment at any time might take a punt on a quick Wasps win.

"I'll have a pound on it and you can quote me on that" replied the divine not generally known for his pessimism and lack of confidence.