BRITISH Premier League Knockout Cup winners Newport Wasps have swapped leading Austra- lian riders with arch rivals Somerset Rebels for the 2012 speedway season, which starts in March.

Arriving at Queensway Meadows Stadium is Cory Gathercole, pictured, 25 last Friday, while going in the opposite direction is Jason Doyle, 26, who returns to the club he rode for in 2008.

The switch, plus Newport’s retention of six of their riders from last season, has to be ratified by the British Speedway Promoters’ Association. Doyle was a crucial part of the Wasps team which lifted the BPL KO Cup with a magnificent two-legged final win over Glasgow Tigers in October.

However he missed the last nine league fixtures of the 2011 campaign after undergoing corrective surgery in Germany to a long-standing shoulder problem. Gathercole has proved himself to be a highly accomplished performer around QMS’ tight, 285-metre track and news of his recruitment will be rest well with Wasps fans.

Gathercole, a cousin of Grand Prix star Leigh Adams, began his senior British speedway career with the Isle of Wight Islanders in in 2007 and has since also ridden for Swindon Robins in the Elite League.

He joined Somerset in 2009, but now becomes the only newcomer in a Wasps team which is determined to challenge for a first league championship title win to follow last season’s fifth-place finish.

Retained from last season are influential skipper Leigh Lanham, dashing Dane Charlie Gjedde, Swedish stars Robin Aspegren and Anders Mellgren plus Gathercole’s countrymen Mark Jones and Todd Kurtz.

Co-Newport Speed-way promoter Steve Mallet revealed everyone associated with the club are delighted with the signing of Gathercole: “We knew we had to make one change, considered our options and decided that Cory fitted the bill. We all know what he is capable of and being in the environment we have here at Newport, we feel he will be a solid addition to the side.”

Newport Wasps, 2012: Leigh Lanham (capt), Robin Aspegren, Cory Gathercole, Charlie Gjedde, Mark Jones, Todd Kurtz, Anders Mellgren.

- The Wasps begin their BPL Knockout Cup defence with a two-legged, first round clash against Leicester Lions on dates yet to be announced.

- It's been confirmed that Somerset have signed Newport asset Alex Davies on a full transfer. The Australian joined the Rebels in May of this year after falling out of favour at Newport following a poor run of team results.

- Newport Speedway announced last month that the club would only run with one team, the Wasps, and that National League side Newport Hornets had been disbanded on financial grounds.