The World Rally Championship, you might have noticed, isn't exactly at its strongest in these parts right now. For one reason or another, it's not much on the television and this summer's Norfolk Downhill Slalom Ski Race* is likely to be of more interest to national newspapers than drivers flying, flat-chat through the Finnish air.
And we've committed thousands of words to establishing the cause of the current situation. We've talked perfect storm of lost promoters, multi-million pound investment going south and the global economic downturn. Maybe we're looking too deeply into the economics of the situation.
The biggest problem is the departure of Colin McRae and Richard Burns. That's where the rot set in, right there. When we lost our heroes, our sport lost the human angle of a story that could be sold onto Fleet Street's back pages.
With the above in mind, the best way of bringing the world championship and rallying as a whole back to British people is simple: find us another hero.
This column's not about to delve into the identity of the next Burns or McRae; instead, it's going to invite interested parties to make it happen.
Through its Academy scheme, the MSA currently has around 50 race and rally drivers on its books ageing from 14-22. At various levels, these drivers are being schooled in how to eat the right food, drink the right drink, build the right muscles and make the mind work for professional motorsport. There's some wheel-time as well, but the theory is that they're in the programme because they can drive - the MSA is working on the peripheral stuff that can make the difference.
There's no doubt, the governing body of British motorsport has ramped up its efforts - and it's about time. What we have now is a pyramid approach, with the elite programme Team UK at the top, which is starting to really work.
Every now and then you do get a reality check with the Academy, though. I got one on last year's Rally of Scotland. Taken to task by one of Scottish rallying's legendary characters, I was assumed as guilty as anybody (because I lived and worked south of the border) for the MSA's policy of "fannying about and teaching drivers how to say the right thing instead of putting them in the car and making them faster"
It was a perspective I was not about to argue with. Partly because I agreed with the sentiment and partly because any disagreement would be discarded courtesy of the inevitable part my family must have played in Robert the Bruce's downfall in thriteen hundred and whatever it was.
My Scottish friend saved what he felt was his strongest point until the end.
"The French," he said with a knowing nod, "they've got it right. They put the money in and give their young guys a chance. That's why Sebastien Loeb's where he is now - because the French invested."
The argument of French Federation Sport Automobile (FFSA - France's MSA equivalent) has been around for a very long time. So I decided to investigate the finances of the FFSA further. Now, we should understand that the MSA is by no means a poor governing body and it could well afford to fund one of Malcolm Wilson's five-year plans to the tune of a few million, but that would be it: a one-hot wonder. And that's a pretty big savings-account gamble.
The FFSA is equally well funded with plenty of licence holders chipping in the odd Euro here and there, but where our cross-Channel chums really score is in the reported €20m that was paid out to the FFSA by the French government to make up for the loss of fag cash when tobacco advertising was banned.
Now, shove that many zeros in a bank account and even the most dead-headed investment banker can get you a return sufficient to put a World Rally Car on an event without denting much more than the interest payments.
So, let's drop the FFSA thing; Motor Sports House is not about to flash the cash.
So, what is the answer?
The answer, my friend, is Gerard Quinn, Ford's European motorsport supremo. Gerard, it's time for you to get your wallet out.
It's time for Ford to take a British driver from the bottom of its own ladder of progression right to the very top. It's time for Ford to find us a new McRae or Burns.
I honestly don't know who that driver is, but I do know he's out there somewhere and with the right tutoring, mentoring, seat time and investment, Britain and Ford could have their own world champion in 2016.
It's a fair assumption that, in reading this, Mr Quinn will be either laughing, livid or about to pick up the phone to me. Or all three.
Sebastien Loeb's junior career featured plenty of French investment © XPB
The argument here is a simple one, though, create a national hero and a brand identity and the media will beat a path to your door. Everything the WRC is struggling to do in Britain at the moment would be much, much easier with a champion of our own.
We saw the potential for return when both McRae and Burns went through the Prodrive Subaru operation in the 1990s. David Richards took a punt on both and look what happened. There's never been a better or more opportune moment for Ford to repeat that exercise.
Volkswagen is well aware of the necessity for a national and homegrown hero, hence the interest in Sepp Wiegand. And yes, I understand, Ford's not a British company, but it's as close as we're going to get for the moment - unless Mini comes back and trades Austria for Abingdon in terms of Countryman production. Ford's World Rally Cars are built here and the UK market's a biggie for the Blue Oval - to the tune of 265,000-plus new motors sold last year.
In terms of pound-for-pound investment, the return for Ford would be massive - and being seen as our savior would certainly be worth a pint or two in Gerard's local on a Friday night. Not to mention the kudos of an accompanying five-year commitment to WRC...
Unfortunately, rallying doesn't have an equivalent of the BRDC, but as a further example of how having locals at the top of the tree helps a sport prosper, look at the SuperStars programme in racing; the BRDC has figured out that without Brits battling for success at Silverstone in the summer, interest in F1 would wane and so would demand for grandstand seats. Hence SuperStars and, hopefully, the kind of conveyor belt of Coulthards, Buttons and Hamiltons that will never allow F1 to disappear from the national sporting conscience in the way rallying has.
So, Gerard, time to get the chequebook out. A nation is waiting. And the returns are out there.
*To the best of my knowledge, this event does not exist. But I might be wrong.
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David Evans is the rallies editor of Autosport and Motorsport News. A successful rally driving father ensured an early introduction to motorsport and, fascinated as he was by rallying, the fourth estate was of equal interest. Having read (or at least looked at the pictures) from the age of two, he joined <i>Motoring News</i> in 1996 and later moved to Autosport in 2002.@davidevansrally More features by David Evans