Lloyd Hepurker, 34, and another motorist, who were both driving BMWs, tore through the streets of Sunderland city centre, at up to 90mph, in a bid to try and beat each other's speed.
Both cars were seen "revving hard" when stopped at traffic lights and "gambling" with going through amber lights to try and get through the city centre, near the Monkwearmouth bridge, first.
Newcastle Crown Court heard one shocked witness, a taxi driver for 25 years, said it was the "craziest and worst" driving he had ever seen, before Hepurkerlost control near the Echo 24 apartment building and smashed into a car containing the female graduate.
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Hepurker told police in the aftermath of the smash, which happened on September 28, 2019: "I've been stupid. I shouldn't have been racing."
The court heard the woman suffered instant, "excruciating" pain, had to be cut from the car, had a possible mini stroke in hospital and was diagnosed with a brain injury that she said has "changed my life".
The injured woman, who was "highly intelligent", had planned to embark on postgraduate studies to become a medical anthropologist but now cannot remember anything she learned at university and is unable to retain new information.
She cannot recognise her own or other people's faces and has now lost her career, her home and split up from the "love of her life", who she was due to marry and planned to start a family with.
In a victim statement, which was read in court, she said she cannot understand why the driver risked killing someone for kicks and said: "You have ruinedmy life, you have ruined the person I was, you have ruined my brain."
The court heard she still suffers seizures and her injuries have had a "catastrophic" impact on her daily life.
She added in the statement: "He has robbed me of any quality of life I once had. Most days I would feel better off dead so I am no longer a burden."
Her father, who was her passenger and was also injured in the crash had to give up his work as a paramedic and is unable to continue with the many hobbies he had.
Hepurker, of Hazeldene Avenue, Newcastle, admitted causing serious injury by dangerous driving.
The court heard just a few months after causing the devastation to the woman’s life, Hepurker was convicted of careless driving, after he "collided with an elderly gentleman".
Judge Julie Clemitson sentenced him to 20 months behind bars with a three years and ten months driving ban.
The judge told him: "You were driving your BMW so fast, while racing, you lost control and crashed into the rear of a car.
"The injury to her has had devastating consequences in many aspects of her life.
"She was engaged to be married, had been nominated for a business award and was due to commence postgraduate studies.
"She was clearly a capable and ambitious young woman with a successful life ahead of her.
"She has been unable to continue with her studies, suffers cognitive impairment and debilitating symptoms which have curtailed the quality of her life she can enjoy to the point she considers there is nothing left of the person she was and thinks it would have been better if she had died in the crash."
Richard Bloomfield, defending , said Hepurker has family and business responsibilities and is not heavily convicted and had urged the judge to suspend the prison sentence, which she rejected.