Factory Red Bull KTM rider Mickael Pichon has pulled out of contention for the 2006 FIM MX1 World Championship after a virus necessitated an indefinite break from the grand prix series.

The former double 250cc number one was unable to complete either moto at Zolder for the season-opener two weeks ago after a course of antibiotics failed to rectify his weakened condition. Demoralised by the news the 29 year old is taking his time to recover and regain his strength.

"Everything was great until a few weeks before the 2006 season started and then I fell ill with a virus that would not respond to antibiotics," he said. "I am really disappointed as this was my big chance being back in a factory team and for the MX1 crown. My health is the most important thing however and I have to be fit before starting to think about riding again. I will still do whatever I can to help KTM to win the MX1 title and also to develop the 2007 race bike."

KTM will now continue with Sebastien Tortelli, who won race one and claimed second overall behind Stefan Everts at Zolder, and young Spaniard Jonathan Barragan as their main spearhead for MX1 success.

"This is a big disappointment for Mickael and all the team," admitted KTM's head of motorsport Kurt Nicoll. "It has been a tough time for him because the medical advice to rest after Zolder would have meant missing another two grand prix and effectively losing any chance of the title he had worked hard for over the winter. It is obviously a blow for us to lose someone with Mickael's calibre but we want to stress that he is very much still a KTM rider and will help with further development on our race bikes once he is ready to ride again."