by Mary E. Daniel-Fisher

Whether you've always been an aggressive street driver or a driver like me who gets passed by most of the traffic, autocrossing is an auto sport in which women can really enjoy active participation and at which, with practice and desire, we can be pretty darn good. With determination, you can definitely be as good as most and better than many. Heck, you could even be better than most. So, let's go do it!
 Why you want to autocross:
bullet Pick up a few car tips. (If you don't already know how, one of the most useful tips you might learn could be how to change your tires.)
bullet Improve your driving:
1.  improved reaction time;
2.  enhanced car control; and 
3.  improved quality reflex actions.
bullet Most important reason = HAVE FUN!!
 What's your dollar investment:
bullet Things you gotta have now:
1.  A vehicle to drive (yours or sombody else's) which is in safe and good running condition.
2.  A helmet (your own or a loaner).
3.  A positive, stick-to-itive attitude!!
bullet Things you'll probably wanna have by next season:
1.  An extra set of wheels.
2.  An extra set of used street tires or some soft compound (sticky) high performance race tires.
3.  Your own car class letters and your car numbers on magnetics.
4.  If you're on your own in this venture:
a.  A 4-way lug wrench.
b.  A torque wrench with a socket to fit your lugs (the "click" kind of wrench is easiest to read).
c.  An easy-to-operate jack (you can use your car jack or buy a small 4-wheel jack, which I like).
d.  A small portable air pump (the kind that plugs into your cigarette lighter works fine; available at Sears, WalMart, etc.).
 What to do when:
bullet Preregister by the deadline.
bullet Get to the Autocross Event early (1-2 hours, depending on what you have to do when you get there).
bullet Visit the Novice Table and the Registration folks first to sign the waiver, sign-up to course work, and pick up a course map if available.
bullet Prepare for tech inspection (Some clubs have a roving tech inspector who will come to your car where it is parked when you raise your hood to indicate you are ready. Some clubs have a tech line that you must pull your car into when you are ready for inspection. Tarheel has several roving techs. If it's not readily apparent, just ask.):
1.  Empty your car of all loose items.
2.  Change your tires (I like to torque my lug nuts once around the car and then back around the car a second time. This is one thing you definitely don't want to forget to do!)
bullet Walk the course as many times as you can before the drivers' meeting and concentrate on learning where the course goes. Autocross THSCC-style is definitely a social activity, but don't use your course-walk time to socialize. You can't go fast if you don't know where you're going!

When I started autocrossing, there were a lot of terms I'd either never heard or heard used in connection with a car, like:

apex:   The point on the inside of a turn to which your car comes closest.
camber:   The vertical lean of the the wheel. Typically, autocrossers will want at least some negative camber in the front and rear which means the top of the tire leans inward. You should check with experienced autocrossers in your own car type or class for setting suggestions.
caster:   The forward or backward swing of the wheel. If the caster can be adjusted, autocrosses typically will want some positive caster in the front which means the wheel will swing forward. You should check with experienced autocrossers in your own car type or class for setting suggestions.
cone penalty:   An addition of 2 seconds to the time of a run for each cone knocked down or completely out of it's marked "box" location.
DNF:   Did Not Finish. Indicates a run was not properly completed and, therefore, does not count.
heel and toe:   Method of downshifting which uses part of the right foot on the throttle and the brake at the same time. Classic method is to use the ball (or toes) of the foot on the brake and the heel on the throttle, hence the name. However, variations are also used.
late apex:   Touching the car to a point on the inside of a turn which is past the mid-point of the turn.
line:   The path you drive through the course.
oversteer:   A situation which occurs when you are turning and the rear of the car slides toward the outside of the turn (aka tail happy). Called "oversteer" because the car is "turning in" more than it should based on your steering wheel input. Generally, rear-wheel drive cars tend toward oversteer.
PAX or RTP:   Index which, theoretically, equalizes all cars. Used to determine the fastest drivers, regardless of the vehicle he/she is driving.
pointer cone:   Cone which is laid down to indicate the direction in which the course goes.
rev matching:   Depressing the throttle while the car is out of gear to bring the revs of the engine up to the same point that they would be if the car were in a particular gear at the same speed. Used to make a downshift smoother (and, therefore, less upsetting to the car) at higher than usual speeds.
run:   A pass through the entire course.
Solo II®:   Synonym for autocross. Solo II® is a registered service mark of the SCCA® (Sport Car Club of America).
threshold braking:   Braking just to the threshold of locking the brakes, then releasing.
toe:   The turn out or in of the forward facing tread-side of the tire. A touch of toe-out is said to make the car "turn in" better. You should check with experienced autocrossers in your own car type or class for setting suggestions.
trail braking:   Continuing to brake some as you enter a turn in order to purposefully create some oversteer.
understeer:   A situation which occurs when you are turning the steering wheel, but the car won't "turn in" enough; it just continues to go forward (aka. push or plow). Called "understeer" because the car is "turning in" less than it should based on your steering wheel input. Generally, front-wheel-drive cars tend toward understeer.

I found a lot of these terms and more tips about autocrossing in Henry A. Watts' Secrets of Solo Racing.
Basic features you'll see on an autocross course include gates, slaloms, lane changes, turn-arounds, and sweepers (long sweeping turns). Some of these features are pictured below...
Now that you've got a little information about getting started and the terminology you'll hear, check the THSCC Calendar and pick yourself an event to attend!