Westland’s Martin a Belle Isle Trans Am winner

David Goricki
The Detroit News

Detroit – Dean Martin rattled and rolled his way to a win in his class of the Trans Am Series race on Belle Isle’s 13-turn, 2.3-mile bumpy street course Saturday morning.

Martin, 45 of Westland, won the TA4 class in his No. 52 Picture Cars East Ford Mustang, holding off Brian Kleeman in his 07 DWW Motorsports Ford Mustang after a final restart. Ernie Francis Jr. was running second before suffering overheating problems.

Martin was most proud of his driving after a late restart.

“That restart was nuts,” Martin said. “The guys up front probably didn’t see how crazy it was, but all three classes got intermixed and it created mayhem down in Turn 7, there were cars everywhere and Brian (Kleeman) was really, really aggressive for two or three laps.

“He was really putting a lot of pressure on me and guys were on the radio saying he’s closing on you, picking up two tenths a lap. I had a gap so I was trying to manage it, but I had to turn the wick back up and he wasn’t fading away. I just had to make sure I didn’t make any mistakes after I got that little bit of breathing room.”

Martin said the Belle Isle track was a challenge.

“I thought we had our car set-up soft and going down that back straightaway your eyeballs are just constantly vibrating,” said Martin, who owns Kohr Motorsports in Westland. “The track is a lot more bumpy than it ever has been and it seems like it actually has a little less grip in a lot of places.

“It’s a lot bumpier here than ever. When I first went out in practice and I got from Turn 1 to Turn 5, it was like, ‘Wow, they really fixed the track up really well.’ Then, I got to the back straightaway and I thought, ‘Oh my God, there’s something wrong with my car,’ because it was just bouncing so hard.

"There’s a lot of bumps on the back straightaway, which is bad because that brake zone at the end of the straightaway is more of a prime overtaking point and things can go horribly wrong back there because you have somebody trying to dive underneath, then they hit some bumps, the car slides a bit and you end up with contact, and the walls are not far away.”

Martin competed in Pirelli World Challenge in past years, winning multiple times in a Ford Mustang.

R.J. Lopez won the TA class in the No. 06 Optica Lopez / Republica Brewing Chevrolet Corvette with Paul Fix finishing second. Kyle Marcelli won the TA2 class in the No. 96 MBRP Performance Exhaust Chevrolet.

“I haven’t driven that hard before – never,” said Lopez. “It’s not an easy track, which makes it awesome. It was a tough battle and really cool because there were some places where my car seemed like it was better than Paul’s, and there were other places where he was better than I was. It was all about finding balance and where to attack, so it made it really interesting.”