The main difference between the gymkhana and autocrosses I have been to is that it is much tighter, causing you to perform your maneuvers quicker at the same time as the speeds are lower. So it is somewhat of a paradox, how gymkhana is faster and slower at the same time. Also, because of the need to make many 180 and 360 degree turns in very limited space, sliding your car around becomes the faster way to complete the course--quite a difference to autocross, where if you're sliding, you're losing time.
I have never induced a slide or a drift on purpose before, so I had to learn how. I asked one of the experienced drivers to ride with me and he explained the basic technique to me, most importantly, using the hand brake to make the car swing around. I could draw on my autocross skills for the slaloms and the sweepers, but sliding the car around the turnarounds and the figure-8 made all the difference, and I was able to run decent times. I have not seen the final results yet, but I was able to improve from 58.xxx to 53.xxx seconds during my first eight runs, which were the only ones that counted for the final standings.
After I got my eight runs in I had lunch and then ran another dozen or so times, practicing the slides. I also let two other guys (Rob and Tony) drive my car to see how it behaves in the hands of experienced drivers. That was pretty impressive. I definitely have a lot to learn.
I also got a chance to take my friend Rob's NA Miata for two fun runs, and that taught me a valuable lesson as well: Namely, power steering rocks! Rob's car has no power steering and I was constantly late for turning into different elements, and wide everywhere else.
A couple friends from the Tarheel club showed up to watch, and I took one of them for a ride out on the course during fun runs. His quote about how gymkhana compares to autocross was: "How different for something so similar!"
The folks who were running the event told me that my results were good, but I still have to see where I am compared to everyone else before I can say whether I am better at gymkhana or autocross. Regardless of the results though, it was a lot of fun!