At Brno on Sunday evening, Yamaha officially confirmed that they will part ways with MotoGP superstar Valentino Rossi at the end of the 2010 season.

The announcement has long been expected, with Rossi's switch to Ducati considered a certainty for weeks if not months.

Confirmation that Rossi will join Ducati to create an all-Italian dream team (probably on a two-year contract) should follow shortly.

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Lin Jarvis, Managing Director of Yamaha Motor Racing, broke the news in the following statement:

"On behalf of the Yamaha Motor Group, I would like to express our sincere gratitude for the amazing seven years that we have spent together. Valentino joined Yamaha in 2004 at a moment when Yamaha was struggling in road racing after eleven seasons without a championship victory.

"Valentino's victory at his first GP race for Yamaha in South Africa in 2004 was an incredible moment and was just the first of many more race wins that have thrilled MotoGP fans and Yamaha fans around the world. His unsurpassed skills as a racer and a development rider enabled him to win four MotoGP world titles to date with us and helped Yamaha develop the YZR-M1 into the 'the bike of reference' for the MotoGP class.

"There have been so many wonderful experiences and victories and we are very proud to have been able to make history together. Whilst we regret Vale's decision to move on, at the same time we! fully respect his decision to search for a new challenge and we wish him the very best for 2011 and beyond.

"For the remaining eight races of 2010 Valentino will remain a Yamaha Factory rider. As such he will continue to benefit from our full support and we hope and expect to see some more race wins with him 'in blue' before the season is over!"

A statement soon followed from Rossi, which said:

"It is very difficult to explain in just a few words what my relationship with Yamaha has been in these past seven years.

"Many things have changed since that far-off time in 2004, but especially 'she', my M1, has changed. At that time she was a poor middle-grid position MotoGP bike, derided by most of the riders and the MotoGP workers. Now, after having helped her to grow and improve, you can see her smiling in her garage, courted and admired, treated as the 'top of the class'.

"The list of the people that made this transformation possible is very long, but I would like to thank anyway Masao Furusawa, Masahiko Nakajima and 'my' Hiroya Atsumi, as representatives of all the engineers that worked hard to change the face of our M1. Then Jeremy Burgess and all my guys in the garage, who took care of her with love on all the tracks of the world and also all the men and women that have worked in the Yamaha team during these years.

"Now the moment has come to look for new challenges; my work here at Yamaha is finished. Unfortunately even the most beautiful love stories finish, but they leave a lot of wonderful memories, like when my M1 and I kissed for the first time on the grass at Welkom, when she looked straight in my eyes and told me 'I love you!'"

Prior to Rossi's arrival at Yamaha in 2004, the company had not won the 500cc/MotoGP World Championship since the last of Wayne Rainey's titles, in 1992.

Indeed, the year before Rossi arrived, Yamaha took just one MotoGP podium - by Tech 3 rider Alex Barros - while the factory Yamaha team couldn't do better than fourth place in a race and finished just fifth in the teams' championship.

Fortunately for Yamaha, Rossi was feeling increasingly underappreciated at Honda, where he won three consecutive world titles from 2001-2003. The Italian also held talks with Ducati for 2004, but couldn't agree terms and even Yamaha seemed surprised when he decided to join them.

Crucially, Rossi also brought his Honda team members with him, led by crew chief jerry Burgess, and - together with Yamaha MotoGP boss Masao Furusawa - turned the flagging YZR-M1 project into a world beater.

Rossi put the new 'big bang' powered M1 onto pole for his very first race with Yamaha, at Welkom in South Africa, which he then won after a close dice with Max Biaggi.

It was the first of 45 Yamaha victories (to date) for the #46, who won the world title for Yamaha in 2004, 2005, 2008 and 2009. Rossi's 2010 title chances ended with a broken leg at round four.

Rossi had been nine points behind team-mate Jorge Lorenzo at the time of his accident and consensus is divided as to what the championship outcome would have been without that fall.

Yamaha once spoke about Rossi becoming a lifetime ambassador for the brand, but that has now gone out of the window.

Rossi's departure must have been something Yamaha had dreaded for years, yet the impression given is that they seem to have watched almost serenely from the sidelines as the Italian drifted into the arms of Ducati.

Certainly, no one thing seems to have caused the Rossi/Yamaha divorce - the relationship had just run its course - but the rise of team-mate Lorenzo (Rossi told the BBC last year that Yamaha should chose one of them for 2011), the financial crises (Yamaha can no longer afford both riders) and the lure of Ducati (able to offer a fresh all-Italian challenge, big money and a 'friendly' team-mate in the form of Nicky Hayden) all played a part.

Rossi's place at the factory Yamaha team will be taken by Ben Spies, who is to be promoted from the satellite Tech 3 Yamaha squad to ride alongside Lorenzo, who has agreed a new contract with Yamaha.

There is no news yet as to which team members will leave Rossi with Yamaha, but it will be a big blow to Rossi if crew chief jerry Burgess and most of his mechanics don't join him in his new challenge.

Title sponsor Fiat may now also leave Yamaha for Ducati.