Mark Christopher Frazer, now 32, took his then-partner’s Volkswagen Golf without her knowledge and sped down the A454 between Bridgnorth and Wolverhampton on June 25, 2018.
At some point he got the attention of James Hale, 10 years his junior, also driving a Golf, and the two began racing.
Frazer, from Wolverhampton, was in front when they reached the village of Swancote and his car drifted over the double white lines in the road before hitting the Ford Ka coming the opposite way.
The Ka’s three occupants all suffered serious injuries – the driver’s leg was broken in five places, his pelvis was fractured and his lung was punctured. He was kept in hospital for three weeks while rods and screws were inserted into his leg. The Ka’s front passenger suffered a broken shoulder while the rear passenger was taken to hospital with less serious injuries.
Prosecutor Mr Howard Searle said that Frazer was banned from driving at the time of the offence.
Both Frazer and Hale pleaded guilty before reaching trial – Frazer, of East Avenue, East Park, to causing serious injury by driving dangerously and taking a vehicle without consent; and Hale, of Bradney Lodge, Worfield, to dangerous driving.
The court heard statements from three witnesses who saw the cars speeding down the road – one driver who was overtaken by them about a mile from the scene of the crash, another who saw them just a few seconds before and a cyclist who saw the crash happen.
The first described both cars shooting past him "very close together" at what he thought was 80 to 90mph.
Those statements showed that Frazer and Hale swapped places twice in the mile before the collision, each overtaking once.
Mr Searle said that Frazer was banned from driving at the time of the offence.
Mr Andrew Baker, representing Frazer, said that his client was "in a parlous mental situation".
"That probably in some way lead to this offence occurring. He took the key from his partner without her knowledge. He is remorseful and he regrets the offence."
Mr Rob Edwards, for Hale, said: "Mr Hale is not responsible for any of those injuries. He does not bear responsibility for it.
"That is not to say he does not have empathy or sympathy for the victims. He is the kind of man who, having made this mistake once, will never make it again."
Judge Anthony Lowe bemoaned the "woefully" low maximum sentence of five years for causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
He said to Frazer: "This was, in any view, seriously dangerous driving that created a serious and obvious risk of a collision of the kind that took place. Three people were seriously injured. The message has to go out that if people drive that recklessly on our roads, a prison sentence is nearly always going to result."
He sentenced Frazer to 21 months in prison, though that had been reduced because of the defendant's early guilty plea, his mental health difficulties and the treatment he requires, as well as the poor conditions in prison during the Covid-19 crisis.
Frazer received a concurrent six-month sentence for the taking without consent. He was also given a driving ban of three years, 10 months and two weeks.
Judge Lowe gave Hale a community order for the dangerous driving, as well as a one-year driving ban.
Both men will have to take extended driving tests if they apply for new licences.