2024 Motorsport UK Academy Co-Driver programme steps up a gear

Wednesday 20 March 2024

Rally co-drivers are an essential component of the Motorsport UK Academy programme, a performance pathway for motorsport’s talented young athletes to learn, develop and ultimately unlock their full potential.  

The 2024 co-driver cohort got their first ‘mission’ last week with a two-day trip to M-Sport HQ at Dovenby Hall, Cumbria. The group was hosted by the seven-time FIA World Rally Championship winning team to hear how a top-flight rally operation operates, and how co-drivers can learn the tools and skills needed for the profession.  

Activities involved creating a recce schedule using local roads around M-Sport, a Pacenote task and then visiting Greystoke to see behind the scenes of M-Sports WRC test, where Gregoire Munster and Louis Louka took time to chat with the co-drivers. 

Guest speakers from across M-Sport gave insights into different roles on and off-event, including the travel office, who explained the work that goes into organising travel and accommodation for a team of 60+ people – details a co-driver would be expected to know as they navigate their crew from start to finish. 

The cohort also ‘pitched’ their skills to M-Sport top management to earn the chance of valuable work experience on a round of the FIA World Rally Championship. M-Sport Team Principal Rich Millener, Co-Driver Coaches for Motorsport UK Academy Seb Marshall and Paul Spooner plus Charles Wheatley, Travel Coordinator for M-Sport, evaluated the presentations, where the co-drivers had to explain their careers, reasons why they should be selected and how the experience would aid them in their career. 

Bonnie Papper was subsequently chosen as the first co-driver to join M-Sport on Rally Croatia next month. “To be one of the co drivers who have been selected to join M-Sport on their WRC campaign and to join them for Rally Croatia is a dream come true,” explained a clearly delighted Bonnie. “It’s all a bit surreal and I have to pinch myself to realise that this is real life. I cannot wait to learn more about what goes into an event at a World Championship and experience the sport I love at its highest level.  

“With the Academy, we had really informative sessions about the team and preparation for the events, but to see and experience this first hand will be amazing. Every day is a learning experience and this will be a great opportunity for me to improve myself and my skills. I cannot thank Motorsport UK academy and M-Sport enough for this dream opportunity and I cannot wait for the trip.” 

“It was once again a privilege to host this year’s Co-Driver Academy at M-Sport,” added Rich Millener, Team Principal of M-Sport World Rally Team. “It is always a pleasure for me to see such young and enthusiastic co-drivers coming through into the sport, and I feel lucky to be able to give them a glimpse of how a top-level WRC team operates on a day to day basis.  

“The visit this year also fell in line with our pre-event Kenya test in Greystoke forest, so they even got to see a Rally1 car in action – I don’t think those smiles will be wiped off their faces for a while after that! 

“As part of our partnership we are offering three lucky co-drivers to come and work with us on events this year, the first of these will be Bonnie Papper. She really impressed me with her determination to succeed in the sport and her enthusiasm for living and breathing rally was clear – it will be a pleasure to host her in Croatia in a few weeks’ time, and I hope it gives her another stepping stone to building a career within rallying.” 

Bonnie will travel with M-Sport to Rally Croatia, based in the Croatian capital Zagreb, from 18 – 21 April.