SPEEDWAY star Darcy Ward last night spoke of his ‘nightmare’ after being cleared of sexual assault.

The Poole Pirates racer yesterday walked free from Bourne-mouth Crown Court after a jury of five women and seven men found him not guilty on one count of sexual assault against a 17-year-old girl.

A 17-year-old boy, meanwhile, who cannot be named for legal reasons, was cleared of rape and three counts of sexual assault following an encounter with the girl in a Poole hotel last August.

Australian Ward shed tears of relief as the jury delivered its verdict and, speaking to the Echo outside court, said: “It’s been a nightmare.

“But I never had any doubts because I knew what had happened. The jury’s verdict has said it all.

“I have managed to ride fairly well over the past two weeks but it’s a big mental thing and it will be hard to put it behind me.

“It was a big thing to have on my shoulders and so hard to deal with. I never want to go through anything like this ever again.”

Ward, 20, is regarded as one of the hottest properties in speedway, having twice won the world under-21 title.

He is currently top of the Elite League scoring averages for the Pirates.

Ward, from Nanango, Queens-land, was signed by Pirates promoter Matt Ford and team manager Neil Middleditch for a club record fee in 2009.

The star added: “The club has been unreal. Neil and Suzi Middleditch have been like a mother and father to me and Matt Ford has been amazing. Neil never had his doubts because he knows me as well as anyone and I am just so grateful for their support. I’m very lucky to ride for this club.

“I can’t imagine what it was like for my parents back in Australia.

“I never want to put them through anything like this again either. But my parents also know what kind of a person I am and they knew I wasn’t capable of anything I was accused of.

“I have been criticised by a lot of people, but I have also had a lot of messages of support from Pirates fans during all of this and I’m so thankful for that.

“I have learned a lot. You have to be so careful and I regret getting in to the situation I did, but I would never hurt anyone.

“Waiting for the jury to say their words when they were coming back in was just horrible. I was shaking because they were making a decision on my life and my entire career. But, thankfully, they made the right decision.”