The first racing of note in Portugal took place in 1931 on the Vila Real circuit, inland from Oporto in the north of the country in the wine-growing region. This was a remarkable 4.3-mile road track with narrow bridges, level crossings, lamp posts and trees. The event was revived after the war and hosted major international sports car races in the 1950s and Formula 3 in the 1960s. It became far too dangerous and international racing turned its back on Vila Real in 1974, although the circuit was still used for the national touring car championship until well into the 1990s. A less dramatic but similar road circuit also existed for many years at Vila da Conde to the north of Oporto where the race ran through the streets and along the front at the seaside resort.
Oporto was the venue of the first Portuguese Grand Prix in 1950. This was a sportscar event with a track which was laid out through the town and included sections of cobbled street and even tramlines. It was a hazardous place and there were a number of major accidents. The circuit hosted World Championship F1 races in 1958 and 1960. The first was won by Stirling Moss in his Vanwall and the second was a Cooper 1-2 which guaranteed Jack Brabham victory in the World Championship. Bruce McLaren came second.
The 1959 Portuguese Grand Prix was held on a track which was laid out in Lisbon's Monsanto Park. It was won by Moss. Brabham was fortunate to emerge unscathed when he spun trying to avoid the twice-lapped local driver Mario Cabral and hit a telegraph pole. Brabham was thrown out and landed in the middle of the road and was narrowly missed by Masten Gregory when he arrived on the scene.