A notorious criminal involved in more than a dozen smash-and-grab raids that netted £50,000 in cash, jewellery and cigarettes has been sentenced to nine years in prison.
Getaway driver Ben Westwood, 33, reached speeds of up to 180mph (289kph) using an adapted Audi saloon to outrun West Midlands Police cars and even the force helicopter in a series of terrifying chases.
Westwood was caught when detectives examining CCTV footage from a string of gang robberies from shops in the West Midlands noticed the same white Audi RS5 was used as the getaway car.
Despite attempts by the gang to throw police off the scent using false number plates, detectives were able to discover there were only two such vehicles of its type in the country.
The luxury car matched an identical one worth £85,000 stolen in a burglary in Stourport which had been fitted with a powerful Lamborghini engine, a panoramic glass roof and high-powered racing brakes.
Just hours later a Co-op store in Stafford was raided and £2,500 worth of cigarettes taken.
But it was not until he was personally caught on CCTV during a robbery at a branch of Tesco in Cannock that police realised Westwood was involved.
As they made their escape, the hoody of one of the gang caught on a roller shutter. Police recognised Westwood as he had just been released early from a six-year prison sentence for burglary offences committed in 2007.
But the gang were still able to stay one step ahead due to Westwood's ability to out-run police in the stolen Audi.
There were further raids in Stoke, Cannock, Rugeley, Wednesfield, Walsall, Worcester, Bentley Bridge, Walsall, Stourport and Market Drayton between August 2011 and January 2012.
A detective told the West Midlands Express and Star: "We knew Westwood would say 'no comment' and deny everything if arrested, so we needed to catch him with the car."
The task the police faced was made more complicated after Westwood sprayed the vehicle black.
It was only when officers raced to reports of a gang attempting to cut open a cash machine in Penn, Wolverhampton, that they had their chance.
Three of the raiders were tackled and arrested at the scene. But two of them jumped into an Audi saloon and raced off towards the M6 motorway.
A police BMW patrol car and the force helicopter immediately gave chase, but they were outrun as the pair accelerated to 180mph.
Westwood even ended up driving the wrong way down the slip road when he realised his way was blocked by a police stinger device.
However at some point they decided to abandon the car, which was later discovered by police. The men were traced by sniffer dogs to a nearby block of flats, where they were both arrested.
The court heard the gang were highly organised, only ever stealing items which were not traceable and easy to sell on. Prosecuting barrister Stefan Kolodynski told the court: "Despite the BMW being a powerful car, it was absolutely no match for the Audi.
"It was driven for over an hour before it eventually stopped. The driving was dangerous … during the chase it almost outran a police helicopter as it reached speeds of 180mph."
Westwood and his four accomplices laughed and joked at Wolverhampton Crown Court during their sentencing hearing. Gregory Simpson, 26 was sentenced to four years for conspiracy to steal.
Ramesh Sharma, 38, was sentenced to three years for conspiracy to steal, Stephen Green, 41, was sentenced to four and a half years for conspiracy to steal.
Luke Watkins, 34, was also sentenced to three years for conspiracy to steal plus nine months for dangerous driving.