TWO friends raced their cars at up to 100mph before a devastating crash which badly injured three passengers.

Michael Birch’s teenage girlfriend had to have her arm amputated after the horror smash on Yarm Back Road last April.

Another friend has been paralysed from the waist down and a third passenger suffered five fractures and needs to wear a back brace.

Details of the life-changing injuries were revealed when Birch and pal Rory Munro – both 19 at the time and now 20 – were at Teesside Crown Court to be sentenced.

Birch was driving his souped-up Seat Ibiza with his then girlfriend and two friends as passengers when he lost control on the wet road.

He and Munro, behind the wheel of a Renault Megane, had sped along the A66 with Birch's passengers begging him to slow down, the court heard.

Witnesses believed the two cars were racing as they hurtled down the dual carriageway at an estimated 100mph.

Birch chased his friend after being overtaken, and was trying to "catch up" when he lost control of his turbo-charged hatchback on a right-hand bend.

He slid off the 50mph road, panicked and slammed on the brakes, said prosecutor Rachel Masters.

He rolled over and hit a grass verge, fence, hedge and large concrete block, ending up in a field and leaving all three passengers with severe injuries.

His 17-year-old girlfriend at the time was the front passenger in the wrecked Ibiza, and had to have her right arm amputated afterwards.

She suffered a massive injury to her right shoulder, damaging the main artery to the arm, as well as fractures to her right thigh and back.

A 29-year-old male back seat passenger was in a coma for two months, then in intensive care, and is now paralysed from the waist down.

A wooden fence post penetrated his abdomen and he lost a kidney and his large bowel, and part of his small bowel

The back-seat female passenger who suffered five fractures to her back told in an impact statement of anxiety, depression and pain which prevents her from doing the things she loved.

One of the passengers thought Birch "got excited" as Munro overtook him on the A66, causing him to increase speed.

A crash investigator believed the two drivers racing each other was a significant cause of the accident, along with Birch's inexperience.

The apprentice electrician had bought the Ibiza just two days earlier, but had not told insurers about the modifications on it, the court heard.

Its power had been enhanced with a turbo charger, modified air-cooler, wide-bore exhaust and lowered suspension.

Birch at first claimed his driving was sensible and he lost control because of the wet road.

Birch, of Charrington Avenue, Thornaby, Stockton, later admitted three charges of causing serious injury by dangerous driving and one of making a false statement to obtain car insurance, and was jailed for three years.

Munro, of The Barkery, Newby, near Coulby Newham and Stokesley, admitted dangerous driving and was given a six-month sentence.

Their lawyers said they showed genuine remorse and they came to court with good references, including one from Munro's driving instructor. Neither has any previous convictions.

Birch's relationship with his girlfriend ended following his "lack of judgment" and the crash's consequences weighed heavily on him, said his barrister, Andrew Stranex.

Victoria Lamballe, for Munro, said he was "absolutely devastated" at the horrendous physical and psychological impact of the accident on his close friends, who he is still in contact with.

The court heard that the wardrobe fitter Munro stopped his car and, along with other witnesses, went to the passengers' aid.

One of the victims, who helped at the scene, said he helped save the lives of the other two, who suffered the worst injuries, making sure they stayed awake.

Judge Peter Armstrong told the pair: "This is a tragic case all round.

"The devastating injuries cannot be understated. You have between you changed the lives of these people who were your friends."

He said Munro was not the direct cause but contributed to Birch's "prolonged, persistent and deliberate course of bad driving".

He added: "You overtook him on the A66 and that triggered what can only be described as a chase, more akin to perhaps rallying than racing.

"This was competitive driving."

Both were sent to detention in a young offenders' institution - Birch for three years, Munro six months - their first time in custody.

Both were banned from driving - Birch for six-and-a-half years, Munro two years.

The judge paid tribute to the "great dignity" of the victims' and defendants' families.

He said the only "bright spot" in the case lay in the hopes and plans for the future expressed in the victims' statements.