by Geoff Mayes

Melis Charalambous put in a strong showing on his local rally, last Sunday's Essex Charity Stages, to take more stage wins than anyone else as he used the event as a high speed test.

The 18-year-old Melis was using the Essex Charity Stages as an opportunity to re-acquaint himself with his ex-works Skoda Octavia World Rally Car, which he had not sat in since he used the car to compete on the 2007 end of season Wales Rally GB.

The day did not get off to a great start when the London based teenage rally star was caught out by wet grass on the opening stage and lost 3 minutes in a ditch. He was not alone in this adventure though, as a number of other, more experienced, crews also suffered the same fate.

After ensuring that there was no damage to his The Press-backed Skoda, Melis, co-driven by Welshman Marc Crisp, promptly won the next three stages in a row.

Once back in service the car was fully checked over by M-Tec, the team in charge of running both the Octavia and Melis' production class Subaru and after minor set-up changes the youngster returned to action.

Fully fired up, and with the car handling more to his liking, he took another five fastest stages times during the afternoon. Happy with everything about the day the team opted to conserve the car and not risk doing anything silly on the final loop of stages, and chose instead to head home early.

"We came here for a test session and after we made a few small changes I was really happy with the car," Melis reflected.

"Because of noise restrictions I couldn't run with anti lag or launch control so that made her a bit of an animal to drive. But apart from that I'm really happy with how the day went."

Charalambous and Crisp will be back in action now on this weekend's Swansea Bay Rally, an event, which includes some of the classic South Wales forests, typically used in the Wales Rally GB.