Duval's day started well, with second fastest time on the Bosenberg stage. After that he slipped back behind McRae and team-mate Martin. By the end of the leg he was behind the battle for the third place, focused on his scrap with former team-mate Carlos Sainz for sixth spot.
Hirvonen continued to gain valuable experience of the stages to bring his Focus RS WRC02 home just outside the top ten, in 14th place.
''I took a wrong turning in stage ten,'' said Martin, ''My co-driver told me to go right, but I went left instead, suddenly there was no stage ahead - it was time for the handbrake, then we had a spin later in that stage. After that, things went well, I'm happy with the tyre choices we've made today. It's a shame there are no more Baumholder stages, they seem to suit me and the car. Compared to last year we are a gear higher in most corners than we were on this event last year. This is going to be a big fight for third tomorrow.''
Duval added: ''We had a moment on the second stage this morning. I misheard a pace note from Stephane, which meant we went into a corner too quickly. I ran wide out of the corner, luckily the spectators were able to get out of the way pretty quickly. The we spun in SS13. Apart from these two problems, we've had a pretty good day.''
Hirvonen continued: ''My confidence is getting better all of the time, I'm learning more and more all of the time. The only problem we've had today has been when the brakes were overheating a little bit.''
Petter Solberg's Subaru Impreza broke its rear suspension after a jump 15km into the 11th stage, while Tommi Makinen's car retired with an electrical fault after SS6 yesterday.
Solberg felt a little better today, but the winner of the seventh round of the FIA World Rally Championship dropped half a minute on the fourth stage of the day, landing his Impreza heavily after a jump. He'd dropped from ninth to tenth place, there was little he could do to stop Markko Martin coming past. The Norwegian admitted he was happier in the wet conditions.
Solberg said: ''The landing was no heavier than normal - I don't know what went wrong. I got out of the car to check everything and make sure it was safe to carry on. Later on in the day we took a tyre which was too soft, the tyres went off for us. Really it would be better if we got more rain, that would suit us better. I'm feeling okay - but not great.''
Team boss David Lapworth added: ''The landing broke the trailing link on the right-rear suspension, which is a part we haven't broken in all of the three years that we have been using it. We changed the complete corner on the car and then did the usual maintenance.''
At Hyundai Freddy Loix's car suffered a throttle problem early in the day, while Armin Schwarz battled against a faulty gearbox for the second loop of stages. The third official Accent of Manfred Stohl ran without problems.