In 2015—the year of the infamous on-track clash with Marc Márquez at the Sepang International Circuit—Valentino Rossi was in the running for a 10th world title until the final race of the season. At that time, Rossi's career victories numbered 112. Fifty-six races later, that number has grown by just three. But there were 10 occasions the win narrowly eluded the now 40-year-old Italian due to trivial mistakes or just plain bad luck.

1. 2016 Grand Prix of Italy—The strongest Rossi and the most fragile Yamaha

Rarely has Valentino Rossi appeared as strong as he did at the 2016 Italian Grand Prix. Pole position followed a fast, consistent pace in Free Practice 4. Sunday morning warm-up, however, brought with it an omen of what was soon to come: Jorge Lorenzo’s Yamaha M1 engine let loose a cloud of smoke and broke down. The same fate later befell Rossi during the race while he was running second to Lorenzo in what was surely one of the biggest slaps in the face of his career. A most important victory at a track where Rossi hasn’t won since 2008 escaped him in a most cruel and unexpected fashion.

2. 2016 Assen TT—A victory wanted too strongly

The annual Dutch event was held in intense rain suited for only the best wet-weather specialists, among whom Rossi must be counted. The race was stopped and restarted with 12 laps to go. Rossi took the early lead and opened a gap on Marc Márquez of more than two seconds. Rossi’s desire to win was so great, however, that he failed to show the patience the difficult conditions required and crashed.

3. 2016 Grand Prix of Germany—I missed the pitboard

It happened the previous year in Misano: Rossi’s team told him to enter the pits but he ignored the message, losing time he could not later recover. At the Sachsenring, the same thing happened again. The wet asphalt was drying and Márquez, who was far behind, risked switching to slicks. In a few laps, the Spaniard’s pace was 5 to 7 seconds quicker than those at the head of the field, who were still on rain tires, watching each other and believing the final outcome would be decided between them. By the time they entered the pits for their own bike changes, it was too late. Had Rossi paid attention to the first pitboard signal, he might have taken the win.

Valentino Rossi side by side with teammate Jorge Lorenzo
Valentino Rossi side by side with factory Yamaha teammate Jorge Lorenzo (99) at Mugello in 2016. Both riders suffered engine failures that weekend, the damage ultimately attributed to the then-new series-standard ECU software.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

4. 2016 Grand Prix of the Czech Republic—A risky gamble

Tires decided the winner of the 2016 Czech GP at Brno. Rossi chose a harder compound than his rivals for the damp asphalt. Over the first laps, with so much water on the track, he seemed to have erred, but as the bikes completed more laps they generated a dry line. The rest of the field destroyed its tires while Rossi advanced by leaps and bounds. Cal Crutchlow, with nothing to lose, risked even more with his choice, and the Brit earned his first MotoGP race win. Rossi was second.

5. 2016 Grand Prix of San Marino—When everything was set for the win

Rossi arrived at Misano with a thorn in his side after what happened at Mugello. In front of his biggest fans, he wanted the victory that had been denied him months earlier. Everything was going well. He rode alone at the front, moving further ahead of Lorenzo and lapping faster than Márquez. When everything seemed set for him to win, an unexpected protagonist appeared: Dani Pedrosa. A steady comeback ended with the Spanish rider hunting down Rossi and beating the Italian in front of his home crowd.

Misano in 2016
Rossi takes a slug of celebratory champagne from his boot at Misano in 2016, where he qualified second behind Lorenzo, led 20 laps, and finished second to the Repsol Honda of Dani Pedrosa.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

6. 2016 Grand Prix of Malaysia—Defeated by a non-threatening rider

The Malayan date once again featured heavy rain. Rossi took the lead after shrugging off a sticky Andrea Iannone. Only Andrea Dovizioso, who had not won a race since the 2009 British GP, could follow his wheel. Rossi didn’t consider Dovizioso a real threat, but the Ducati stayed in his tire tracks. With fewer than five laps to go, the number 46 went wide in a corner. Dovizioso continued his trajectory through the turn, which was enough to steal the victory.

Rossi at Sepang
Rossi has twice in recent seasons come close to winning at the Sepang International Circuit in Malaysia. He finished second to Andrea Dovizioso in 2016 and crashed out of the lead two years later.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

7. 2017 Grand Prix of France—Pressured by his teammate

Rossi and Maverick Viñales took their duel to a climax at Le Mans. The victory was decided on the last lap, which Rossi began with a small advantage after passing his teammate. The tension in the Yamaha garage was at full throttle, and the remaining places to overtake Rossi were dwindling. In the braking zone for “Garage Vert,” Rossi made a mistake and ran wide. Viñales took the lead and, in a desperate attempt to recover the lost distance, Rossi slid out four corners from the finish line.

8. 2017 British Grand Prix—Once again at the finish

Just when everything seemed set for a Rossi victory—after leading the race at Silverstone from the opening lap—the win once again eluded him. Rossi did not count on Dovizioso and Viñales catching him and rode his own race while the Ducati- and Yamaha-mounted duo waited patiently. Rossi was unable to react when they caught and passed him with three laps remaining, and the victory went to Dovizioso.

Circuit of The Americas in Texas
Álex Rins (42) charged from seventh on the grid at Circuit of The Americas in Texas to second behind Rossi (46) by lap 9. The Suzuki factory rider took control of the race with four of 20 laps remaining.Andrew Wheeler/automotophoto.com

9. 2018 Grand Prix of Malaysia—A long time without winning

At Sepang, the long-awaited victory seemed like it would finally come for Rossi. As soon as the lights went out, he took the lead and held it until four laps from the end when he lost traction and fell, handing the win to Márquez, who had been closing, tenth by tenth, on his rival. Rossi remounted to finish 18th.

10. 2019 Grand Prix of The Americas—A golden opportunity lost

The Grand Prix of The Americas in April was the most recent opportunity for victory that eluded Rossi. Álex Rins passed him in a place he did not expect, and fearing Rins would escape, Rossi made a mistake braking that cost him another win, thereby losing out on a unique opportunity to win at the Texas track after Márquez crashed out of the race.

Ten wins have eluded Rossi over the past three seasons. Ten races that could have raised his tally of victories to more than Giacomo Agostini’s record of 122, yet that number remains at 115, and, as time passes, becomes more difficult to raise.