He never took part in a Grand Prix, or any of the classic sportscar races, but for more than 25 years Vasco Santiago Ribeiro Pereira do Sameiro was one of the men to beat in Portugal and across the Atlantic in Brazil. His successes included winning the Vila Real race no fewer than five times, and the Maracanã sportscar race in Rio de Janeiro twice. He won his first event in 1929, at the age of 26, and his last in 1955, when he was 52. Northern Portugal’s Braga circuit is named in his honour.
There were three Sameiro brothers, and between them they were among the most successful drivers in Portugal in the early 1930s - on one occasion they finished one of the biggest local races in 1st, 2nd and 3rd places. But when Gaspar and Roberto retired, Vasco kept going, and kept winning.
Vasco Sameiro’s early successes were in a Delage and an Alfa Romeo 1750 in sprints, which was all that was available in Portugal at the time. When circuit racing came in 1931 he raced Ford, Lancia and Alvis cars as well as the Alfa, winning the Circuito do Campo Grande and a couple of sportscar races, and the following year, with Ford, Invicta and Delage, won races on the Vila Real and Boavista circuits and also took three second places.
But his most dominant season was in 1933 when, now with a Monza Alfa Romeo at his disposal, he contested all three national races - the Campo Grande, Vila Real and Boavista events - and won the all. On top of that he made fastest time in the Penha em Guimarães hillclimb and was a race winner in sportscar events with the faithful Invicta. He also hopped across the border to Spain, and took second place in the Penya Rhin Grand Prix in a field which included Nuvolari and Wimille.
A season of racing in Britain in 1934 was less fruitful, and he then had a year away from the circuits, but was back in action in 1936, and won the Vila Real race again. He would repeat his successes in this race in 1937 and 1938, always in the famous Monza Alfa.
His first Brazilian sortie had been in 1937, when he finished fourth in an international field in the Rio de Janeiro GP and, with no more racing at home, he returned for the opening of the new Interlagos circuit on 12 May 1940, thouogh this time the Monza retired when in second place. When wartime fuel restrictions were imposed, the enterprising Brazilians ran their races for production saloons powered by gas-converters. Sameiro won the first of these, in October 1943.
Back in Portugal, Sameiro raced the first of his several Ferrari sportscars, a 166MM, in 1950, moving on to a 225S, with which he won the Circuito de Vila do Conde in 1952, and then a 290MM, which he crashed heavily in another Portuguese race in 1953. Local successes were becoming harder to achieve, but in 1954 he was fourth in an important Spanish race at Barcelona.
He’d been back to Brazil, too. His first single-seater races had been in that country in 1951, when he raced a Maserati 4CLT, but retired in both his starts. Two years later he won the Maracanã sportscar race at Rio in his Ferrari 225, and after an accident at Rio in 1954 took his second Maracanã win in 1955.
By then he had a 750 Monza Ferrari, but this ended his career when a bad crash in practice for the 1955 Portuguese GP at Oporto hastened his decision to retire, at the age of 52.